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Sometime Thayer Fellow in History at Harvard 

University and Harrison Fellow in History 

at the University of Pennsylvania 



Copyright, 1924 

By Roy Hidemichi Akagi 

Reprinted, 1963, By Permission of 

The University of Pennsylvania Press 


My Father 


To the Memory of 

My Mother 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 


The present study is an attempt partially to fill the gap 
which exists in the understanding of the economic phases of 
the New England colonial life. It was begun under Pro- 
fessor M. W. Jernegan at the University of Chicago, ex- 
panded and continued under Professors F. J. Turner and 
S. E. Morison at Harvard University, and completed under 
Dean H. V. Ames and Professors A. B. McKinley and 
St. G. L. Sioussat at the University of Pennsylvania. The 
writer wishes to take this opportunity to express the deep- 
est gratitude he owes to them, especially the last named 
three, for their sympathetic directions, invaluable sug- 
gestions, and constructive criticisms in the course of his 
researches. Professor Sioussat 's assistance in putting the 
study into the present form and in reading the proofs 
was particularly appreciated. However, the writer alone 
is responsible for its final form and contents. 

The writer also wishes to acknowledge his indebtedness 
to the following for their kindness in permitting the use 
of valuable manuscript materials which were necessary 
in the completion of the study: Mr. J. H. Edmunds of 
the Massachusetts Archives, Mr. J. H. Tuttle of the Massa- 
chusetts Historical. Society, Mr. A. C. Bates of the 
Connecticut Historical Society; the officers of the Con- 
necitcut State Library, the Maine Historical Society, the 
American Antiquarian Society, and the Pennsylvania His- 
torical Society; and several town clerks and Registrars of 
Deeds in Massachusetts. 



The study is by no means complete and perfect in every 
detail, but the writer sends it forth to the public with the 
hope that some day some one will pick up its threads and 
weave another and more perfect fabric until every thread 
of source materials is exhausted. 

New York City, May, 1924. 

R. H. A. 



Preface vii 

Chapter I. Introduction 1 

I. The use of the Word "Proprietor" in the Ameri- 
can Colonies 1 

II. The Place of the Town Proprietors in the New 

England Land System 5 



Chapter II. The Methods by Which the Town 
Proprietors Acquired Title to Land in the New 

England Colonies 15 

I. Occupancy or "Squatting" 15 

II. Purchases from Indians 22 

III. Grants from the General Court 30 

IV. The Sources of Indian Town Proprietors ... 38 
V. The Seventeenth and the Eighteenth Century 

Proprietors Compared 44 

Chapter III. The Organization of the Town 

Proprietors. . 50 

I. The Evolution of the Proprietary Organization 

in the New England Colonies 50 

II. The Board of Proprietors 55 

1. The Legal Basis of Organizations . . 55 




2. Proprietors' Meetings 60 

3. Officers 64 

III. The Membership in the Proprietary Organiza- 

tions 67 

IV. The Rights and Privileges of the Proprietors . . 73 
V. The Proprietors' Records . . 80 

Chapter IV. The Activities of the Town Pro- 
prietors 85 

I. The Settlement of Townships 85 

1. As Builders and Settlers of Towns . . 86 

2. As Capitalists— Building of Mills . . 88 

3. Land Grants and Pecuniary Induce- 

ments for Settlement 92 

4. Provision for the Religious Life ... 96 

5. Proprietors and the Frontier Defense . 101 
II. The Division of Land 103 

1. The General Layout of Towns . . . 103 

2. The Common and Undivided Lands . . 104 

3. The Principle and Methods of Division 104 

4. The Voting on Divisions 109 

III. The Town Proprietors and the Common Field 

System 110 

1. The Right of Commonage Ill 

Chapter V. The Controversies of the Town 

Proprietors 115 

I. Royal Control and the Regime of Andros . . 115 

1. Some Defects in the New England Land 

System and the Problem of Royal 

Control 116 

2. Andros and the Assertion of Royal Con- 

trol 118 

3. Opposition of the Town Proprietors . . 119 

4. Failure of Royal Control and its Effect 123 



II. Proprietors vs. Non-Proprietors 124 

1. The Types of Controversies 124 

2. The Sources and Keasons of Contro- 

versies 155 

3. Attempted Methods of Settling Con- 

troversies 159 

III. The Bow Controversy, 1749-1787 165 



Chapter VI. The Background of Land Specula- 
tion in New England in the Eighteenth 

Century 175 

I. Conditions at the Close of the Seventeenth 

Century 175 

II. Land Bank Agitations and Their Effect upon 

Land Speculation 176 

III. Connecticut Auction Projects, 1712-1720 ... 181 

IV. The Bubbles of 1719-1920 182 

V. Indian Troubles and Speculation 183 

VI. Boundary Controversies and Land Speculation 184 
VII. Lotteries and Land Speculation 185 

Chapter VII. The Speculative Town Proprietors 
of the Eighteenth Century 189 

I. The Speculative Land Grants of the Eighteenth 

Century 190 

1. The Narragansett Townships . . . .190 

2. The Canada Townships 192 

3. The Frontier Townships 193 

4. The Auction Townships 197 



5. The "New Hampshire Grants" ... 200 

6. The New York Grants in Vermont . . 202 
II. A General Survey of Land Grants in the Eigh- 
teenth Century 204 

III. The General Characteristics of the Speculative 

Town Proprietors .......... 209 

1. Speculative — Extent and Method of 

Speculation 210 

2. Heterogeneity . 217 

3. Increase of Absentee Proprietors . . . 218 

IV. The Failure to Fulfill Conditions of Grants . . 219 

1. Efforts to Fulfill Conditions of Grants . 219 

2. Factors Retarding Settlements . . .221 

3. Deliquent Proprietors 225 

Chapter VIII. The Revival of the Ancient 

Patents 230 

I. The Great Proprietors and the Eastern Claims . 230 

1. The Revival of the Great Proprietors . 230 

(1) The Masonian Proprietors .... 233 

(2) The Kennebec Purchase Proprietors . 241 

(3) The Pejepscot Proprietors .... 244 

(4) The Lincolnshire Company Proprietors 248 

(5) The Pemaquid Proprietors .... 251 

2. The Activities of the Great Proprietors 253 

(1) Granting of Townships and Lands . 253 

(2) The Great Proprietors and Immigra- 
tion 258 

(3) The Great Proprietors and Frontier 
Defense 269 

3. Controversies over the Eastern Claims . 272 
II. The Western Claims 282 

1. Interest in the Western Lands .... 282 

2. The Susquahanna Company .... 283 

3. The Delaware Company 286 



Chapter IX. Conclusion 288 

I. The Significance of the Town Proprietors . . 288 

1. Separation of Powers 288 

2. Last Link in the Distribution of Land . 289 

3. Conquest of Frontiers 290 

II. The Town Proprietors and the Origin of New 

England Towns 291 

III. The Significance of the Speculative Town Pro- 

prietors 294 

IV. The Significance of Controversies between Pro- 

prietors and Non-Proprietors 296 

Bibliography 301 

Index 341 






The term "proprietor" was used in two distinct senses 
in the American colonies. In order fully to understand 
the nature and the scope of the present study, therefore, 
it is necessary at the outset to distinguish these two usages. 

The more familiar usage of the word "proprietor" is 
with reference to the proprietary provinces. The "Lords 
Proprietary" or "Lords Proprietors," whether single per- 
sons or groups of grantees, were created and constituted 
by the crown on the model of the Palatinate of Durham. 
They held both territorial and governmental powers and 
like "the feudal seigneurs of the middle ages, became, or 
aimed to become, the lords of great colonial territories to 
which they were to stand as to any fief or estate of land. ' ' * 
The institution, in this sense, was essentially feudal and 
monarchial in its character. The more noted examples of 
such Lords Proprietary or Proprietors are William Penn 
of Pennsylvania and Lord Baltimore of Maryland. Chief 
among the many others are the Earl of Carlisle, the Lord 
Palatine of Barbadoes and adjoining islands; the first 
Earl of Stirling, the lord proprietor of Nova Scotia, half 
of Maine, and Long Island; the Earl of Arundel and of 
Surrey of the early Carolinas; Sir George Carteret and 
Lord John Berkeley of the Jerseys; Sir James Hamilton 
of the Narragansett country; the Earl of Lenox, Lord 
Maltravers; and the eight Proprietors of Carolina. 

i Andrews, The Colonial Period, 30. 



At an early date similar proprietors were also created 
in connection with New England. In fact, many of the 
above named Lords Proprietors received grants of land in 
New England on the feudal tenure of holding of the crown 
by the sword. The most important, however, was Sir 
Ferdinando Gorges who aspired to develop in New England 
a proprietary province of which he should be "true and 
absolute proprietor, ' ' with sub-fiefs and private plantations. 
He became a grantee of large territories in New England, 
both under the crown and the Council for New England, 
but by 1639 all his efforts had failed and his great proprie- 
tary province had practically dwindled away with the 
exception of a small portion of Maine which eventually 
passed into the hands of the Massachusetts Bay Company. 

Of similar type were the members of the Council for 
New England and their grantees. The Council issued 
nearly thirty land patents during its life time, 1620 to 
1635, and these titles all served in the eighteenth century 
to complicate the claims to Maine territories which were 
already sufficiently confused. The most notable of these 
numerous patentees or proprietors, later strengthened by 
the royal patent, was Captain John Mason who claimed 
all of New Hampshire and with Gorges a part of Maine. 
The Massachusetts Bay Company was technically of the 
same type before it removed the charter to New England 
and transformed itself into a corporate colony. Even the 
trading companies created in England, such as the East 
India Company or the Moscovite Company, possessed simi- 
lar characteristics unless, as in the Massachusetts Bay 
Company, a change was deliberately accomplished. 

It is however the other and relatively little known usage 
of the term "proprietor" which forms the subject of the 
present study. Used with reference to the proprietors of 
New England towns, the word is quite different from the 
use of it in the phrase "Lords Proprietors." We may 


define the proprietors of New England towns, in the first 
instance, as the original grantees or purchasers of a tract 
of land, usually a township, which they and their heirs, 
assigns, or successors, together with those whom they chose 
to admit to their number, held in common ownership. They 
enjoyed the absolute ownership and exclusive control over 
such tract or tracts of land granted to them and were re- 
sponsible collectively for the improvement of the new plan- 
tation. More specifically, they were responsible for induc- 
ing and enlisting settlers and new comers, for locating home 
lots and dwelling houses, for building highways and streets, 
for subdividing the adjacent arable land, and subjecting 
the meadow and forest, for a time at least, to a common 
management. In other words, they constituted the nucleus 
of the newly settled community and at first they controlled 
the whole machinery of the town's life, both political and 
economic. "They formed a de facto land company" and 
were "proprietors in the true sense of the term." 2 ., 

This connotation of the proprietors as the original gran- 
tees soon came to be affiliated with another and more com- 
mon meaning. After parcelling out home lots, common 
field and pastures, and town common and other public lots, 
the proprietors set aside what was remaining of the original 
grant as the "common and undivided lands." These 
common lands were, of course, exclusively under their 
own control and management. At first, while the inhabi- 
tants were all or nearly all proprietors and the land was 
plenty and cheap, this process was practically meaningless. 
As the population increased and the price of land propor- 
tionately rose, the homogeneous town life was displaced by 
heterogeneous elements. Land became an increased object 
of desire both to those who did and to those who did not 
control it, while the source of supply was gradually de- 

2 Osgood, The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century, I : 


creasing. At the same time, the proprietors or their heirs 
and assigns, and possibly purchasers, alone had the sole 
right to any divisions of the common and undivided lands 
on the basis of the original grant; and the bulk of the 
inhabitants were completely excluded from such privilege. 
The natural result was the solidification of the proprietors 
or the ' ' commoners ' ' as the sole shareholders in the division 
of the common and undivided lands. In the older towns, 
where there existed the practice of common cultivation and 
common pasturage, the proprietors alone claimed these 
rights and the term ' ' commoners ' ' signified the shareholders 
in the common field in contradistinction from the other 
inhabitants who did not possess these privileges. In every 
one of these cases, the proprietors or commioners were 
identified with the possessors of the right of commonage. 
Eventually, these common fields were also divided in sever- 
alty and distributed among the commoners according to 
their shares in the field. In either case, the term proprietors 
came to be applied to those persons, either resident or 
non-resident, who had a right to share in the division of 
the comomn and undivided lands. In this sense, the pro- 
prietors included not only the original grantees and their 
heirs and assigns, but also those who purchased proprietary 

We must here make a clear distinction between the pro- 
prietors and the other inhabitants of the New England 
towns. In every town, even from the beginning, there 
were inhabitants and grantees of town land who were not 
admitted to the privileged body of proprietors. This 
second class, which formed the majority of any town popu- 
lation, was known as the "non-proprietors" or the "non- 
commoners" in contradistinction to the proprietors or 
commoners. They came to live within the town's limit 
mostly after the original settlement was made by the pro- 
prietors and were unfortunately excluded from the owner- 


ship and privilege of the common and undivided lands. 
In the case of the speculative land grants of the eighteenth 
century, the proprietors were mostly non-resident and the 
inhabitants were all, or nearly all, non-proprietors. They 
might hold a freehold, but the freehold did not admit them 
to a proprietary share. They might become legal inhabi- 
tants and freemen of the town and obtain a voice in town 
meetings, or even be freemen of the colony, and yet did 
not find admission within the privileged circle of the pro- 
prietors. "The idea of f reemanship, " in the language of 
Osgood, "was political in its nature, that of proprietorship 
was territorial." The f reemanship, in other words, im- 
plied the exercise of the franchise, while the proprietorship 
was exclusively a property right. 


Having defined the term "proprietors" as it was used 
in New England towns, we must next give it a place in 
the New England land system. For this purpose we shall 
briefly examine the steps by which the title to land passed 
from the crown to individuals in the New England colonies. 3 


The original source of title to the New England soil, as 
in the other parts of the continent, w T as in the English crown 
which claimed it on the right of discovery and possession. 
The king was the immediate owner and lord of the soil 
and he exercised unlimited power in the disposition of it. 
He claimed also the right to establish local government 
and conferred powers of legislation upon his grantees. 
Thus, all titles to landed property in the New England 
colonies were derived originally from an actual or con- 
structive grant of the English crown. 

3 In this outline, I have followed the treatment of the subject by 
Egleston, Land System of the New England Colonies. 


This theory of the British government and of the colo- 
nists that the absolute, ultimate title to land was in the 
sovereign, however, was subject to the right of occupancy 
of the Indian. This natural right of the natives was en- 
titled to protection, but the sole right of acquiring land by 
purchase or by actual conquest from the Indians was in the 
crown or its grantees, and the natives had no right to dis- 
pose of it to no others. Thus laws were passed in all New 
England colonies, forbidding any purchase of land from the 
natives without license from the legislature. On the other 
hand, a grant of land carried with it the right to extinguish 
the Indian title as of course, and the colonists, sooner or 
later, did so extinguish the Indian titles. This was espe- 
cially true in the seventeenth century, while in the later 
years the practice gradually died away. 

While the crown's absolute claim to the title of the soil 
was generally accepted in theory, there were at first some 
variations in actual practice. The founders of the Narra- 
gansett Bay settlements recognized no other than the 
Indian title as original and absolute and the title to land 
rested solely upon the purchase of the native right. It was 
only after the royal charter was issued in 1663 that the 
title of the crown was recognized as valid. In Connecticut 
also the colonists held their land merely by de facto pos- 
session and native purchases until the granting of the royal 
charter in 1662, after which date the title no longer rested 
upon occupation and purchase. 


From the crown the land titles passed to the several 
colonial governments through grants made in the form of 
royal charters. 

Before the creation of any colonial government, however, 
the Plymouth Company of 1606 was, with some changes 


in the membership, made a separate body politic and cor- 
porate under the name of "The Council established at 
Plymouth in the County of Devon for the Planting, Ruling, 
and Governing of New England in America. ' ' The charter 
of 1620 granted to the new corporation the territory be- 
tween the fortieth and forty-eighth degrees of north lati- 
tude, and extended throughout the continent. It was to 
be held as of "the manor of East Greenwich in free and 
common socage" and the company had the power to grant 
it to settlers. The customary right of trade and settlement, 
coupled with the power of legislation and government, 
were also given. The enterprise proved a failure and the 
Council surrendered its charter to the King in 1635. The 
importance of the Council for New England in this study 
is, not that it created any colonial government, but that it 
granted a number of land patents before the surrender of 
its charter, among which were some of great importance 
to which we shall return at a proper place. 

Of the land patents granted by the Council for New 
England, perhaps the most important was that given to a 
company known as "The Governor and Company of the 
Massachusetts Bay in New England," which developed out 
of a trading company and which received a royal charter 
in 1629, confirming the grant of territory already made 
and adding thereto full governmental rights. Upon re- 
moval to America, it developed into a "corporate" or self 
governing colony and, in the course of time, it absorbed 
several independent grants. Most important of these was 
the royal grant to Sir Ferdinando Gorges, dated 1639, 
covering the tract of land called the Province of Maine, 
lying between the Piscataqua and the Kennebec, and ex- 
tending inland one hundred and twenty miles, which was 
eventually sold to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1677. 
In 1691, the Bay Colony received a new charter by which it 
was constituted a Royal Province and its jurisdiction ex- 


tended over what is to-day the States of Massachusetts and 
Maine. The Pilgrim settlement at Plymouth, after three 
futile attempts to obtain a royal charter, was included in 
the Massachusetts Bay Province thus reconstructed. 

The colony of the River Towns of Connecticut, having 
been founded without a royal charter, attained its ultimate 
limits by expansion and by the absorption of two smaller 
settlements, the colony at Saybrook in 1644 and the New 
Haven Colony in 1662. No one of these three colonies 
existed by virtue of rights superior to its own. In 1662, 
the amalgamated colony was constituted a corporate colony 
by a royal charter under the name and style of ' ' The Gov- 
ernor and Company of the English Colony of Connecticut, 
in New England, in America." The territory granted 
comlprised what is now the State of Connecticut and also 
a part of New York. 

The Narragansett Bay settlements, originally founded in 
strict conformity with the principles of Roger Williams, 
obtained for self-protection, its first charter from the Par- 
liamentary Government of England in 1643, under the 
name of "The Incorporation of Providence Plantations, in 
the Narraganset-Bay, in New England." This received a 
royal charter in 1663, confirming the territory already oc- 
cupied by the settlers. The territory thus confirmed sub- 
stantially covered the present State of Rhode Island, and 
the colony was styled ' ' The Governor and Company of the 
English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation, 
in New England, in America." 

Under these royal charters the title conferred upon the 
respective colonies was invariably "as of the Manor of East 
Greenwich in free and common socage" on the condition of 
paying one fifth of the gold and silver found within the 
territories. The charters also granted to the respective 
colonies the exclusive right of acquiring or disposing of 
land; in Massachusetts the charter of 1691 specifically in- 


vested this right in the ' ' Governor and Generall Assembly ' ' 
while in Rhode Island the General Assembly was given 
that power. 4 

The royal province of New Hampshire was erected by 
the King in 1679, subject however to the vested rights of 
John Mason in the soil. After the brief but tyrannical 
administration of Cranfield, the province was united to 
Massachusetts in 1685, but in 1692 it again became a sepa- 
rate Royal Province, sometimes under the joint rule of the 
Massachusetts Governors. There was no royal charter 
granted in this case and the title to land in the greater 
part of what was regarded by New Hampshire as her terri- 
tory was uncertain. It was thus the constant source of 
trouble, mainly on account of the Mason claims and the 
boundary disputes on the south and the west. The power 
of granting land was vested by instructions in the Governor 
with the advice and consent of the Council. 5 


The next stage in the transfer of the title to land in the 
New England colonies was the colonial grants, The right 
to grant land was vested, whether by the royal charters oi 
by the express action of the people, in the general court 
and all grants were made by that body, except in New 
Hampshire where the Governor was the principal figure. 

The grants of land made by the general court, in general, 
took two forms: first, grants to individuals; and second, 
grants to groups of individuals. The individual grants 
which were made by the general courts were usually in the 
nature of pensions, salaries, gratuities, or for the encour- 

* Thorpe, Constitutions and Chapters, I: 530; III: 1848, 1870, 
1883-1884; VI: 3208, 3213, 3221. 

5 For the historical treatment of land titles in New Hampshire, 
see Fry, New Hampshire as Boyal Province, Chapter IV. 


agement of some commercial enterprise. In Massachusetts 
they were generally in small tracts 6 and carefully located; 
in Connecticut there was greater freedom in regard to the 
location of such grants, allowing the grantee to choose the 
land wherever he pleased so long as it did not prejudice any 
former grant. 7 As we approach the end of the seventeenth 
century, individual grants by the general courts become 
less common, although they do not altogether cease through- 
out the colonial period. 8 

By far the most important method of disposing of the 
colony lands was by means of grants to groups or communi- 
ties of individuals and the grantees became known, both in 
common and in legal parlance, as the proprietors whom we 
have already defined above. The objects of these com- 
munity grants was the formation of new plantations and 
a township grant usually contained, with slight variations 
especially in the earlier years, a tract of six miles square. 
The grants were made generally upon petition and it was 
customary for the general court to appoint a committee to 
supervise the laying out of plantations. During the early 
period, the grants were described in the most general terms, 
without even a specification of their bounds ; but soon more 
cautious rules were adopted and every grant was required 
to be surveyed and recorded before the transfer of title 

6 In Massachusetts, for example, between 1630 and 1655, there 
were nearly one hundred individual gTants, averaging in size from 
360 to 375 acres. No individual grant exceeded 3,200 acres and of 
these there were very few. Egleston, op. cit., 19-20. In the eigh- 
teenth century, individual grants were still smaller, ranging between 
100 to 200 acres. The situation was similar in the other colonies. 

7 Mead, Connecticut as Corporate Colony, 61 ; Andrews, River 
Towns of Connecticut, 37-38. 

8 As a typical example of these in the eighteenth century, see the 
grant to Francis Bernard: Sawtell, Sir Francis Bernard and His 
Grant of Mount Desert Island. 


was finally consummated. 9 Even then, due to inchoate 
knowledge of geography and the unscientific method of sur- 
veying and of actually indicating the boundaries, boundary 
disputes were very common throughout the colonial period. 
One of the characteristic features of these New England 
colonial grants has already been indicated. The colonial 
government invariably exercised a characteristically Puri- 
tan control in all its land grants, and the general court 
carefully superintended the surveying and laying out of 
lands and the founding of new plantations. The primary 
motive in making the land grants was the actual occupation 
and settlement of unoccupied lands and the colonies did 
not seek any profit from the public domain. The land was 
freely granted to those who petitioned for it, while the 
legislative conditions were always imposed for the actual 
occupation of the soil and for the provision of religious 
and educational facilities for the settlers. Moreover, no 
distinct land office nor any official definitely charged with 
the administration of the public domain was established 
by any of the New England colonies and the land was not 
sold by the colony ; except in the case of certain islands and 
very rarely of some other tracts, land was never leased ; nor 
did rents and alienation fines form any appreciable part of 
the colony's revenue. 10 It is true, as we shall see later, 
that, during the eighteenth century, land was granted less 
prudently and with more freedom, due mainly to the com- 
mercial and political influences of the time, and even whole 
townships were auctioned off in Massachusetts and Con- 
necticut. But there is no evidence that the colonies aimed 
to obtain permanent revenue by selling or leasing the public 
lands. The last, but not least in its importance, is the 

9 The detailed description of the General Court 's grants, together 
with the methods and processes followed, may be found elsewhere 
in the chapters following. 

i° Osgood, op. cit., 1 : 428 and note 2. 


Puritan land tenure free from all feudal incidents and ex- 
ternal control. Consequently, the proprietary tenure with 
royal quit-rent was never established in the New England 
colonies; even in New Hampshire, where it persisted in 
theory, the quit-rents were never successfully collected and 
the enforcement, if tried at all, ended in a failure. 11 


The final stage in the transfer of the land titles lay in the 
town or proprietary grants. In the early years, as we 
shall see later, there was no distinction between the town 
and the proprietors, and the town handled the important 
work of granting lands in the town meetings. But gradu- 
ally the proprietors claimed that power exclusively for 
themselves as belonging to the original grantees ; and, par- 
ticularly after their organization as independent bodies, 
they alone exercised the jurisdiction over the common and 
undivided lands in any township. In other words, it was 
through the town proprietors that the characteristic collec- 
tive ownership of land in the New England colonies finally 
passed into individual ownership. As such the town pro- 
prietors occupied the most important place, possibly next 
only to the general court, in the distribution of land and 
the occupation of the frontier wilderness of the New Eng- 
land colonies. 

It should be pointed out at this point that the New Eng- 
land town proprietors were the creatures of the colonial 
legislature which had the exclusive control over the grant- 
ing of land and the founding of townships, and conse- 
quently they never formed a part of the imperial program, 
either in their creation or in their activities. Throughout 
the colonial period they enjoyed a complete freedom and 

iiJBond, Quit-Rent System m the American Colonies, Chapter II 
and pp. 51-61. 


maintained a continuous independence from all external 
control, except that of the colonial governments. 

The only connection which some of the town proprietors 
possibly had with the home government was through the 
channel of appeals to the King in Council. Due to the 
abundance and the entangled nature of legal cases arising 
from land troubles in the colonies, appeals were often taken 
to the King in Council. But all such cases were handled 
purely as judicial questions and in no case were either 
political or imperial questions raised. Moreover, the in- 
strument of disallowance was not applied to the laws gov- 
erning the town proprietors and their activities. There 
were numerous instances where the colonial laws affecting 
the right of private property were disallowed on the ground 
of infringing upon the English law; but laws governing 
the proprietors' organizations and activities were no where 


The purpose of the present study is to present an account 
of the development, organization, activities, and contro- 
versies of the proprietors of the New England towns. The 
subject will be divided, for the sake of clarity, into two 
parts, of which the first will be devoted exclusively to the 
institutional study of the town proprietors. 

In the second part an attempt will be made to study the 
effect of land speculation upon the town proprietors in the 
eighteenth century. Incidentally we shall have the occa- 
sion to incorporate the story of the Great Proprietors or 
the Patentees under the Council for New England so far 
as they, together with the town proprietors, were imbued 
with the spirit of land speculation in the eighteenth century. 
However, it is not the purpose of the present study, as the 
title clearly indicates, to deal with this type of proprietors 
in any extended form simply because, as we have already 


pointed out, they were quite different in their institutional 
characteristics from the town proprietors. For the similar 
reason, merely a brief sketch will be given of the western 
claims in the pre-Revolution period. 

An attempt will be made at the close of the study to unite 
into one bundle a few significant threads which grow out 
of the study. But this will be very general in its character, 
while each chapter will speak for itself on the significance 
of any particular phase. 




In transplanting the institution of the proprietors to 
New England towns, the Puritan leaders had no definitely 
preconceived plan, and the institution showed its own 
peculiar development until, toward the close of the seven- 
teenth and throughout the following centuries, it became a 
well formulated basis of the colonial land policy. The 
story of this development is the story of the source of their 
title. A careful analysis seems to show that there were, 
historically speaking, at least four different methods by 
which the town proprietors acquired their title to land in 
New England colonies, namely, through occupancy or 
" squatting, " purchase from the Indians, grant from the 
general court, and recognition of the native right in behalf 
of the Indians. Of these the third method became the 
dominant form, while the first two died out and the last 
was confined to the Indians themselves. 



Several of the towns which were first settled in Massa- 
chusetts and Connecticut, as well as those which later 
formed the united Colony of Rhode Island, were founded 



by the spontaneous act of their settlers upon land to which 
they had no legal title until after the recognition by the 
colonial government or the extinguishment of Indian 
claims. Such for example were Salem, Boston, Cambridge, 
Watertown, Dorchester, Roxbury, and Weymouth in the 
Massachusetts Bay Colony, and Hartford, Weathersfield, 
Windsor, and New Haven in Connecticut, 1 Both in Massa- 
chusetts and Connecticut these towns were founded almost 
simultaneously under the pressure of necessity before the 
actual formation of any local governmental bodies and 
necessarily land was taken up without guidance from the 
general courts. In other words, there was as yet no defi- 
nitely formulated land policy in the founding of towns and 
the proprietors in these respective towns owed no legal 
origin to any other organization than themselves. 

Beginning as a fishing station on Cape Ann, and later, 
upon failure, removing to the present location without 
authority, Salem became a plantation of the newly organ- 
ized Massachusetts Bay Company. Boston, Watertown, 
Roxbury, and Dorchester were first settled by those mem- 
bers of the company who came with Winthrop under the 
pressure of necessity; there was no time to wait for the 
permission from the Company or to ask for any specific 
grants of land and the groups settled wherever locations 
with favorable conditions were found. The case of Cam- 
bridge differed slightly but was similar in effect. It was 
founded by governor, deputy governor, and assistants as 
the capital of the Colony and its chief seat of defense. 
Weymouth, originally Wessagusset, was settled in 1623 by 
the "Old Planters" who, coming to New England with 
Capt. Robert Gorges, had established themselves without 

1 The Ehode Island towns will be treated elsewhere for reasons 
which will be made clear later. See the next section. 


any color of legal right within the limit afterward assigned 
in the charter of 1629 to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. 2 

Although these towns were founded without authoriza- 
tion from the government of the colony, they were not per- 
mitted to enjoy their independence for any length of time. 
As soon as the General Court was fairly organized it began 
to assert that supervision over towns which became charac- 
teristic of the later New England land system. The first 
instance of this control was the action of the General Court 
in September, 1630, when it named Dorchester and Water- 
town by an order which declared ' ' Mattapan shall be called 
Dorchester, and the town upon the Charles River Water- 
town. ' ' 3 This control was completed by 1636 when their 
powers were recognized by the General Court and the au- 
thority of the Court over them was fully asserted. 4 Even 
before this, in 1634, the General Court had asserted in a 
general township act that none but itself has power to dis- 
pose of land or give and confirm property rights. 5 Hence- 
forward, these towns were subjected to the same rules and 
laws of the General Court and stood in same relation to 
that body as the later towns for whose inception the court 
was responsible. 

The three original River Towns of Connecticut were 
founded on a similar procedure. The people who settled 
Hartford, Windsor, and Weathersfield came first to Massa- 
chusetts as groups of emigrants animated by a more or less 
common purpose and thence sought a permanent home in 
the Connecticut Valley. In both stages of their migration 

2 McLear, Early New England Towns, Chapter I ; Osgood, op. tit., 
1:428; Adams, Genesis of Massachusetts Towns, 16-17. 

s Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts 
Bay in New England, 1628-1686 (hereafter cited as Mass. Col. 
Bee), 1:75. 

*Ibid., I: 172; Osgood, op. cit., I: 429; MeLear, op. cit., 20 ff. 

s Mass. Col. Bee, I, 117. 


they acted without the sanction of the home government or 
the guaranty of any charter. Beyond the action of the 
Massachusetts General Court in giving them permission to 
remove, they were the squatters on an unauthorized terri- 
tory and later established their title by purchases from the 
Indians. Four years after their settlement they formed a 
united government under the instrument known as the 
Fundamental Orders and the people gave to the General 
Court the exclusive control over all unoccupied territories. 
Henceforward the General Court alone exercised the super- 
vision over the public domain and the three River Towns 
came under their jurisdiction, as others of the court's 
creation later. 6 The theocratic settlements at New Haven 
and its surrounding towns were originally founded in a 
very similar way to the three River Towns. The settle- 
ments were unofficial and independent of both the mother 
country and the other colonies. Their right at first was 
purely a squatter right and it was followed by the pur- 
chases from the Indians. 7 

In every one of these cases, then, the towns were origi- 
nally established in an unofficial way by men possessed 
merely of the squatter rights to the soil. These original 
settlers or squatters became the nucleus of the latter pro- 
prietors in the respective towns. Upon extension of the 
power over them by the general court, they admitted new- 
comers as inhabitants and together exercised the exclusive 
control over the town land. At first these original settlers 
and the admitted inhabitants constituted the total popula- 
tion of any given township and the town was the medium 
through which all land questions were dealt with ; selectmen 
were merely a committee of the proprietors to manage the 
prudential affairs of the town. In the course of time the 

6 Andrews, Biver Towns of Connecticut, 20-21 ; Osgood, op. cit., 
I: 301jjT. 

7 Atwater, History of the Colony of New Haven, Chapter V. 


Puritan exelusiveness had manifested itself in the form of 
freemanship in the town affairs and of proprietorship in 
the land matters. 

The idea of freemanship took hold of the New England 
towns immediately, but that of proprietorship was slow in 
its adoption. Thus, at first, there was no distinction 
between the proprietors and the town or other inhabitants. 
But that the original settlers and their associates were 
conscious of their right over the town land and that they 
had conceived of the exclusive control of the land by them- 
selves, in much the same way as the principle of freeman- 
ship governed the political affairs of the town, is shown 
in their actions in the form of town votes. At Watertown, 
as early as 1635, it was ordered that 

"No Foreiner comming into the Towne, or any Family arising 
among our selves shall have any benefit either of Commonage, or 
land undivided but what they shall purchase, except that they buy 
a mans right wholly in the Towne. ' ' 8 

The division of land was accordingly made twice in 1636 
and once in 1637, exclusively among the inhabitants who 
later became the original proprietors of that town.® At 
Cambridge also the inhabitants, original and legally ad- 
mitted, only were allowed the right of commonage and after 
1646 even the admitted inhabitants "were to have no rights 
of commonage by hire and those entitled to commonage 
were forbidden to sell their right. ' ' 10 Likewise at Dor- 
chester the original settlers and the admitted inhabitants 
alone claimed the right to deal with the town lands and in 
1645, when they chose seven selectmen for the government 

s Watertown Becords, I: 2. 

9 Watertown Proprietors ' Becords, Iff. 

io The Becords of the Town of Cambridge in Massachusetts, 16 SO- , 
1703 (hereafter cited as Cambridge Town Becords), 12-13; Adams, 
Genesis of Massachusetts Towns, 25-26. 


of the town, the proprietors cautiously limited the select- 
men's power 

11 First that they shall not meddle with the giving or disposing 
of any of the Town land without the consent and good will of the 
Town first obtained: 2 neither shall they take upon them to alter 
any parcel of land from the present improvement without consent 
of proprietors or the proprietors shall do it themselves by the major 
vote being fairly proceeded in. ' ' u 

On the other hand, the proprietors gave to the selectmen 

"all accustomed liberty concerning common Lands in Fence also 
our Town lots that they shall have power to enjoin the several pro- 
prietors to make and repair such Fence as is due unto them by pro- 
portion and upon default therein to charge such penalty upon them 
as they see meet. " 

At Salem there were no less than ten Common Fields of 
associated " commoners, " or proprietors by 1640. These 
proprietors, as in the other cases, consisted of the original 
squatters and the admitted inhabitants and each common 
field was under the general supervision of the town which 
the proprietors created. 12 

In Boston, too, the "inhabitants" or the original settlers 
and the admitted newcomers were the sole nucleus of the 
later "commoners" and the "town" at first had the full 
power to dispose of the town land. Thus, in 1636, twelve 
overseers were empowered by the ' ' written instructions ' ' of 
the selectmen to ' ' oversee, look into, and sett and order the 
final allotments." They were sometimes known as the 
"allotters." In 1641, the town ordered that "a general 
townsmeeting " alone had the power of granting lands and 

n Adams, Genesis of Massachusetts Towns, 8, 13-14. 

12 Adams, Village Communities of Cape Anne and Salem, I: 37 ff. 
For the limitation of the proprietors ' numbers, see McLear, op. cit., 
102, 104-105. 


it decided at a ' ' general townsmeeting ' 7 to divide ' ' the resi- 
due of the Town lands not yet disposed of" among "the 
present inhabitants together with such as shall be admitted 
within two months." At this time, then, it was the "in- 
habitants" who had shares in the common lands and there 
were no "commoners" or proprietors as such. 

In 1646, the town again ordered that "all the inhabitants 
shall have equal right of commonage in the Towne" and 
"those that are admitted by the townsmen to be inhabi- 
tants." In addition it passed an important order which 
barred the inhabitants who are admitted in the future from 
the right of commonage except by hire and prohibited the 
present holders of such right to sell it, "but only to let it 
out to hier year to year." From that year the "inhabi- 
tants ' ' who had shares in the common lands became slightly 
differentiated from the new comers on account of this 
limitation, but, in 1672, the right of commonage was ex- 
tended so as to include all "residents in the Towne" in 
that year. 13 

In all of these towns, then, the squatters obtained their 
right from the general court after the actual settlement of 
the places and as original settlers they claimed the power 
to admit new comers. With this latter class they consti- 
tuted the original "planters" or settlers and, being the sole 
owners of the town lands, became the nucleus of the later 
proprietors. However, the distinction between the pro- 
prietors and the town, as well as between the proprietors 
and the non-proprietor inhabitants, was vague and ambigu- 
ous until the beginning of the next century and the town 
meeting controlled the land policy within the township. 14 

is Peters, A Picture of Town Government in Massachusetts Bay 
Colony at the Middle of the Seventeenth Cenntury as illustrated by 
the town of Boston, 30, 32, 33, quoting town records. See also Os- 
good, op. cit., I: 463. 

14 See below Chapter III ' ' The Organization of the Town Pro- 
prietors. ' ' 



The theory of the British Government and of the colonists 
in the occupation of the New England soil was that the 
absolute, ultimate title to land was in the Crown and that 
the sole right of acquiring it by purchase or by actual con- 
quest was in the Crown or its grantees. This principle was 
strictly carried out as soon as the general court took charge 
of the land policy in the several colonies. However, during 
the earlier period, there were a few divergences from this 
theory and many town proprietors derived their right to 
the soil primarily from the purchases from Indians. This 
was particularly true in Rhode Island. 

In Rhode Island, at least before the united government 
took control of its land policy, the title to land originated, 
in strict conformity with the principle of its founders, in 
the purchase from Indians and not in the Crown. It was 
the purchasers who became, in the course of time, the pro- 
prietors in the several Narragansett Bay towns. The spirit 
of individualism, moreover, dominated the founding of the 
original towns and, until the union of four towns in 1644, 
there was no supervision of the founding of townships as 
in the other New England colonies. 

The evolution of the town proprietors in Rhode Island, 
particularly before the organization of the colonial govern- 
ment, starts invariably with the Indian purchases. At 
Providence, which may be taken as a typical example, the 
evolution of the proprietors may be traced in the following 
manner: (1) the Providence Purchase and the Pawtuxet 
Purchase which were made by Roger Williams in 1637 
from Canonicus and Miantonomi, at first in accordance 
with the " treaties' 7 or the understandings of the years 1634 
and 1635 and later confirmed by a deed of March 24, 1638 ; 
(2) the formation, out of the few individuals collected at 
Providence, of a "Town Fellowship' ' of twelve men, thir- 


teen including Williams, acting by mutual consent, upon 
the basis of the deed executed by Roger Williams; (3) the 
assignment to these original ' ' purchasers ' ' and such others, 
the so called ' ' new comers, ' ' who in the meanwhile had been 
admitted into their fellowship, of land consisting of a five- 
acre "home lot," a "six acre lot," and a right to a sufficient 
amount of the general land to make a total of one hundred 
acres which became the basis of a full proprietary right; 
(4) the formal recognition by the fellowship, on May 29, 
1643, of the conditional character of their grants, that of 
actual occupation. On Jan. 19, 1646, these original pur- 
chasers and proprietors granted twenty-five acres of land 
to the inhabitants as a concession and each inhabitant so 
granted was admitted to a quarter part of a proprietary 
share under the name of the "Quarter Right Man." By 
1663, the number of proprietors having reached one hun- 
dred and one, the proprietors decided to admit no others 
and the separation between the proprietors and the other 
freeholders or inhabitants of the town was complete. 15 In 
short, deriving his title to land from the Indians, Roger 
Williams chose to resign in favor of a " Town Fellowship ' ' 
any proprietary authority which might have been exercised 
by him alone and the members of the fellowship, with the 
admitted purchasers or ' ' new comers ' ' and ' ' Quarter Right 
Men," became at the same time a freeholder possessed of 
a free hold estate and a shareholder in the yet undistributed 
part of the company's land. 

In the other older towns in Rhode Island a series of 
similar evolutionary steps can be traced, always starting 
from the Indian purchases. At Portsmouth at least six 
stages are discernable in the evolution of the proprietors. 

is Dorr, Proprietors of Providence and their Controversy with 
the Freeholders (in Rhode Island Historical Society, Collections, 
IX); Richman, "Rhode Island, I: 85-94; Providence Town Votes, 


These are: (1) The formation on March 7, 1638 at Provi- 
dence of the political society of eighteen men to settle at 
Aquidneck ; (2) the actual purchase of the island from the 
Indians on March 24; (3) the adoption on May 13, 1638, 
of the rule of limiting inhabitants and freemen to such as 
the "Bodye" should admit; (4) the assignment, seven days 
later, of house lots, mostly six acres in extent, to the origi- 
nal purchasers and others admitted since; (5) the orders 
made in various forms between 1638 and 1639 that lands 
not improved within twelve months should revert to the 
town but that compensation should be made for labor ex- 
pended toward improvement; and (6) the orders of 
September 19, 1642, forbidding the sale of land to any out- 
side jurisdiction or to Dutch settlers, and of December 23, 
1644, declaring that ' ' the right and privileges of the Lands 
undisposed of remains in the bodye of the freemen" and 
that ' ' the freemen which are the possessors have only power 
to dispose of the lande that is to be disposed of. ' ' 16 New- 
port, originated by Coddington and his party who left the 
Portsmouth group in 1639, was founded in a very similar 
manner, while Warwick was founded in 1643 on the Shawo- 
met and several other purchases, the purchasers agreeing 
that they would keep the disposal of land to themselves 
and the admitted purchasers, and that none shall enjoy the 
possession of any land ''but by grant of ye owners and 

i« Eecords of the Colony of Rhode Island and Province Plantation 
in New England, 1636-1792 (hereafter cited as E. I. Col. Eec), 
I: 45, 52; Bichman, op. cit., I: 91-93. In 1684, the General Assem- 
bly declared that the land in Portsmouth and Newport belongs ex- 
clusively to all li freemen" and that they have " liberty in their 
public meetings to grant and dispose of the said undivided lands, 
according to their usual custom. " (E. I. Col. Eec, III: 155). 
Notwithstanding this order, the proprietary class of Newport as- 
serted their right to the undivided lands in 1702 and the division 
was made exclusively among the heirs and assigns of the original 
proprietors of 1644. Bichman, op. cit., II: 50, footnote 2. 


purchasers. ' ' 17 In all of these cases, the purchase right 
was the legal right and the purchasers became the nucleus 
of later proprietors; the confirmation of their respective 
rights later by the central government added or subtracted 
nothing from that right. 

In the Plymouth Colony, also, the purchase of land titles 
from the Indians was an important feature in the occupa- 
tion of land. But there the purchasers did not enjoy the 
freedom of action which characterized the Rhode Island 
purchasers; all purchases were to be confirmed, sooner or 
later, by the General Court. On the other hand, it is curious 
to observe that here the purchase rather than the court 
grant or confirmation was important in the eyes of the pur- 
chasers, and the proprietors were organized on that basis, 
as the proprietors of Taunton North Purchase or the 
proprietors of Rehoboth South Purchase. 

The ordinary process in the creation of proprietors under 
the Plymouth practice was, with slight variations, as 
follows: (1) the application to the Court for a permission 
to purchase; (2) the authorization of purchase by the 
Court, often appointing a committee to supervise the trans- 
action; (3) the purchase from the natives by the adven- 
turers, always with a deed but very ambiguous in bound- 
aries ; (4) the confirmation of the purchase by the Court ; 
and (5) the actual occupation of the territory. Often 
purchases were made before the authorization of the pur- 
chase and the confirmation followed. This was particularly 
true in the period before the orders were passed prescribing 
the Court's permission for any purchase. After such a 
procedure the purchasers became the sole proprietors of 
the territory thus purchased and managed the affairs as 
any other proprietaries, though under the territorial juris- 

17 Fuller, History of Warwick, 10-14, 149. For the troubles which 
followed the Shawomet purchase, see Osgood, op. tit., I: 345jf. 


diction of the General Court. The shares in the propriety 
were regulated in proportion to the money advanced in the 

The typical examples of these Indian purchase pro- 
prietors in the Plymouth Colony are the proprietors of 
Taunton North and South Purchases, 18 of Rehoboth North 
and South Purchases, 19 and of Sowam. 20 

In the Connecticut Colony also, during the earlier period, 
the purchase from the Indians constituted an important 
basis of the proprietary right in many towns. 21 But, as 
in Massachusetts, the title primarily originated in the court 
grants and the Indian purchases were merely for the 
secondary purpose of extinguishing the native right. 

The proprietors of the Indian purchases, however, belong 
to the earlier period of the seventeenth century ; even then 

is The Taunton Purchases were three in number. (1) The Titi- 
quet Purchase of 1639 with 46 purchasers who became the " first 
and ancient proprietors." Later it included the "Eight Mile Pur- 
chase" also. (2) The North Purchase, made in 1668, comprizing 
some 60 square miles, though vague in its boundary. (3) The 
South Purchase, consummated by the 87 purchasers in 1672. Emery, 
History of Taunton; Quarter Millennial Celebration of the City of 
Taunton, 29-77 and the Appendix for documentary materials. 

is The Rehoboth Purchases were two in number. The South Pur- 
chase dates back to 1643 and the North Purchase was made in 1661 
and confirmed by the Court in 1666. Dagget, A Sketch of the His- 
tory of Atteleborough, Chapters I and IV; Records of Rehoboth 
Proprietors and Rehoboth North Purchase, Mss. 

20 See Bicknell, Sowam: with Ancient Records of Sowam and 
Parts Adjacent (hereafter cited as Bicknell, Sowam). 

21 For example, there were at least nine purchases from Indians 
at Woodbury, Connecticut, but the Court grant preceded all. Cothren, 
History of Ancient Woodbury, Connecticut, 1642-1854, I., Chapter 
II. Guilford and Milford, Stamford and Greenwich, and Southhold 
on Long Island were originally started on the basis of purchases 
from Indians. But in all cases the Indian title was not of primary 
importance as in Rhode Island; it was done primarily for the sake 
of friendly relations. 


they were limited to a small section of New England. The 
reason is not far to seek. As soon as the general court took 
control of the distribution of land and the founding of 
towns, it strictly applied the principle that all land titles 
should primarily originate in the Crown or its grantees. 
Consequently the colonial governments, through legislation, 
discouraged all purchases from the natives without license 
first obtained from the general court and declared null 
and void all deeds taken without permission. There was 
also a secondary object in such regulations, namely, not so 
much to restrict land policy as to ' ' prevent misunderstand- 
ing, disputes and fraud in connection with the extinguish- 
ment of the Indian title to land, and also to prevent the 
undue dispersion of settlers. ' ' 22 

The Massachusetts Bay Colony led the way in 1634 when 
it ordered ' ' that no pson whatsoeuer shall buy any land of 
any Indians without leaue from the Court. ' ' 23 This was 
reiterated by a more elaborate act of 1701 24 which declared, 
among other things, that all deeds of purchases from In- 
dians made since 1633 without permission of the General 
Court "to be null, void and of no effect," that no future 
purchases be made without license from the court, that 

22 Osgood, op. tit., I: 529-530. " These laws were passed," 
writes Perley, "for the protection of the Indians by securing them 
from deceit and impositions, and to enable the government to avail 
itself of the full benefit of the grant from the crown to themselves 
and their grantees, by giving them the exclusive privilege of ex- 
tinguishing or acquiring the Indian right of occupancy. " Perley, 
Indian Land Titles of Essex County, Massachusetts, 19. 

23 Mass. Col. Rec, I: 112. Even before that date the orders of 
1629, for example, encouraged the colonists to extinguish Indian 
titles after the general court grant to "avoyde the least scruple of 
intrusion." Ibid., I: 394, 400. 

2* An act to prevent and make void clandestine and illegal pur- 
chases of land from Indians. Acts and Resolves, Public and Private, 
of the Massachusetts Bay, 1692-1780 (hereafter cited as Mass. Acts 
and Resolves), I: 471-472. 


the penalty for the violation of this rule will be a fine 
double the value of land or imprisonment for a month, 
and that all leases of land from Indians be approved by the 
court of sessions of the peace. This principle was subse- 
quently re-enacted or amended slightly, being actually 
practiced till the Revolutionary period. From 1746-7 three 
guardians were provided to watch over the transactions. 25 
In the Plymouth Colony the same principle was enacted 
into law in 1643. 26 

The laws of New Haven and Connecticut followed the 
same principle, but differed slightly from those of the other 
colonies in their application. They expressly provided for 
purchases, under authority from the general court, for the 
benefit of the whole colony. The New Haven law of 1639 
authorized the purchase, upon the Court's permission, "in 
the name & for the vse of the whole plantatio. ' ' 27 The 
first act of Connecticut, which was passed in 1663, de- 
clared 28 

"that no person in this Colony shall buy, hire or receiue as a gift 
or mortgage, any parcel of land or lands of any Indian or Indians, 
for the future, except he doe buy or receiue the same for the use 
of the Colony or the benefit of same Town, with the allowance of the 

The act of 1702 ordered that, when the land is granted by 
the General Court, such township alone has power to pur- 

25 Ibid., II: 104; III: 306, 679; IV: 163-164, 530, 974; V: 175, 
459, 1122. 

26 Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England, 1620- 
1692 (hereafter cited as Plym. Col. Bee.), XI: 41. See also IV: 
20, 45, 82, 109, 167, etc., for the actions of the Colony in purchas- 
ing lands for the individuals. 

27 New Haven Colonial Records, I: 27. 

28 Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, 1636-1776 (here- 
after cited as Conn. Col. Rec), I: 402. This was also the theory 
in Massachusetts but it was not so specifically stated. 


chase of the Indians and that all other purchases are 
illegal. 29 The act of 1717 is very specific on this principle, 
declaring "that all lands in this government are holden of 
the King of Great Britain as the Lord of the fee ; and that 
no title to any lands in this Colony can accrue by any pur- 
chase made of Indians . . . without the allowance or ap- 
probation of this Assembly . . ." 30 In 1772, the Court 
fixed the penalty for the violation of this act at £50. 81 

Even in Rhode Island, which was originally founded 
upon the principle that the Indians are the sole owners 
of the soil and that the purchase is the only legitimate basis 
of all titles to land, freedom of purchase was not long 
permitted to be practiced. Soon after the charter had 
become the instrument of government, the General As- 
sembly, in 1651, forbade any one to purchase lands from 
the Indians without permission. The penalty for violation 
of this law was the forfeiture of the land in question to 
the colony, while an additional fine of £20 was affixed in 
1658. 32 More elaborate laws, following in general the 
principles adopted by the other colonies, were passed in 
1676 and 1727. 33 

Thus the purchase right in every colony became a matter 
of secondary importance as far as the legal title to land 
was concerned and the proprietors who owed their creation 
to the Indian purchases gradually ceased to spread until 
this method disappeared from the New England land 
system altogether. This is partially due to the strict en- 

29 Conn. Col. Bee, IV: 397. Actual prosecution under this law 
is recorded in 1708. Ibid., IV: 526. 

so Ibid., VI: 13. 

si Ibid., VI: 355-356. See also Connecticut Archives, Towns and 
Lands, Mss., Ill: 144; IV: 66-68; V passim, for actual cases. 

32 B. I. Col. Bee, I; 236, 403-404. 

ss Acts and Laws of His Majesty's Colony of Bhode Island and 
Providence Plantation in New England (hereafter cited as B. I. 
Laws) : 148; B. I. Col. Bee, IV: 396. 


f orcement of these prohibitory laws, which fact is clearly 
shown by the constant authorization of purchase in the 
earlier years and also by the recorded cases of refusal to 
confirm purchases made without authority. On the other 
hand, a grant from the general court ordinarily carried 
with it the right to extinguish the Indian title as a matter 
of course. Accordingly, the colonists, particularly during 
the seventeenth century, extinguished the native titles as 
far as possible. 34 Indeed, "the New England colonies 
followed very consistently the principle that the Indian 
right of occupancy should be extinguished, and since it was 
done very largely with the knowledge and consent of the 
general courts, the land frauds which were later committed 
in some of the other colonies do not appear among them. ' ' 35 


The squatter proprietors and the Indian purchase pro- 
prietors were limited both as to numbers and time. By 
far the more common and more universal method by which 
the proprietors acquired title to land in the New England 
colonies was the direct grant from the colonial governments. 
No sooner was the general court organized than it took con- 
trol over the unoccupied land within the respective colonies 
and claimed the exclusive right to grant land and create 
townships. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, as early as 
1630, the Court declared that no person shall plant in any 
place within the limits of the patent without leave from the 
Governor and Assistants or major part of them. 36 In 
1635, the Court decreed that "the major part" of the magis- 
trates should have power from time to time to dispose of 

s* See for example, Perley, op. cit. ; Wright, Indian Deeds of 
Hampden County. These will give collections of Indian deeds. 
35 Osgood, op. cit., I: 530. 
se Mass. Col. Bee, I: 76. 


the ' ' sitting down of men ' ' in any plantation and that none 
should go without leave from them 37 and in the same year 
the Court began to put that principle into practice by 
making a grant which later became Dedham. 38 The Con- 
necticut General Court, until the charter was procured in 
1662, derived its power directly from the people and in 
1639, in their Fundamental Order, the people gave to the 
General Court the sole right to dispose of all public land. 
In Rhode Island a similar policy was followed after the 
union of the original four towns in 1644. 39 

The general court, in all cases, carefully supervised the 
granting of lands and the founding of towns. These grants 
were usually made in answer to petitions 40 from the actual 
or prospective settlers of a new plantation. If the petition 
was approved by the general court, a committee, consisting 
in most cases, though not in all, of residents and sometimes 
of the members of the court, was appointed to view the 
proposed location and to superintend the laying out of 
the plantation. This committee, after surveying and laying 
out the same, reported its proceedings to the court and the 
formal giant was made after the confirmation of the report 
It was common for the general court to restrict the time 
in which the settlers should occupy and improve their 

37. Ibid., I: 167. 

38. Ibid., 1 : 156. See below f ot more detailed description of the 
founding of Dedham. 

39 Throughout the seventeenth century, however, there was very 
little occasion for the establishment of new towns in Rhode Island 
and the Colony had very little to do with the granting of land. In 
the actual management of their lands, the towns of Rhode Island 
pursued a more independent course than did those in the other New 
England Colonies. See Osgood, op. tit., I: 435-436. 

*o Sometimes, particularly in early years, the General Court took 
initiative and granted townships without petitions from the prospec- 
tive planters. See, for example, Mass. Col. Bee, I: 103, 136, 149, 
147, 236; Corm. Col. Bee, V: 180; VI: 63. 


grants; often, particularly in the eighteenth century, a 
certain number of families was required to inhabit the 
plantation within a specified time. 41 More independent 
action was taken by the towns in Rhode Island, as we have 
already noted, while in Plymouth and New Haven, a close 
connection between the colony and the town resulted in 
the confusion of actions and often the town's regulations 
appear in the colony records as colony deeds. 42 

All these steps sufficiently indicate the watchful care 
which the general court exercised in the founding of towns. 
At first, however, there was no well formulated system 
nor policy. It was the product of experience and we can see 
the development of that system through typical examples 
both from early and later towns. 

Dedham, Mass., may be taken as a typical example of a 
grant during an early formative period when the well 
defined system of later years was not yet practiced. Never- 
theless, it shows the orderly process by which New England 
proprietors were created. In 1635, twelve men petitioned 
for a grant of land and the Court complied with the 
petition but nothing was done till a year later. On 
September 8, 1636, nineteen men again petitioned and the 
Court accordingly granted a tract of five miles square 
" above the fall of the Charles River"; it was to be free 
from taxation for three years. Beyond these simple orders, 
even without a definite boundary of the plantation, there 
seems to have been no further action on the part of the 
general court, while the grantees proceeded to take posses- 
sion of the township thus vaguely located. These nineteen 
original grantees were the sole owners of the township and 
they admitted additional members upon prescribed con- 
ditions of settlement from time to time. Immediately upon 

4iEgleston, op. cit., 17-18; Osgood, op. cit., I: 429-431, 434-435; 
Mead, op. cit., 61-63. 
42 See Osgood, op. cit., I: 434-435. 


settlement, all settlers were given home lots, twelve acres 
for every married man or eight acres for every unmarried 
person, and it was agreed that no one should sell land 
without leave of the settling company. They held weekly 
meetings and managed the affairs of the township in a 
body until 1639 when a vote was passed in which it was 
recited, among other things, that, whereas it has been 
found that proprietors, in holding these meetings, "have 
wasted much time to noe small damage and business 
thereby nothing furthered," it is advisable to make choice 
of seven men to manage the affairs of the plantation. To 
them the proprietors delegated full powers to manage the 
town affairs, but they kept the land affairs to themselves. 
After 1643, the proprietors' meeting was practically the 
town meeting and it elected the selectmen who served as 
an executive committee of the proprietors. However, it 
must be clearly emphasized that there was no clear dividing 
line between the proprietors and the town as such ; the 
same meeting served for the two purposes, while the pro- 
prietors tried to control the distribution of the common 
and undivided lands. By 1656 the proprietors agreed not 
to make any more grants of the common lands to strangers 
and to divide the land in the future on the basis of the 
then existing number of proprietors in proportion to the 
valuation of their respective property. 43 Thus, the grantees 
of Dedham, together with the admitted planters, constituted 
the later proprietors of Dedham, but in the early years 
there was no clearly defined distinction either between the 
proprietors and the town or the proprietors and the non- 
proprietor inhabitants. 

43 Mass. Col. Bee, I: 156, 179-180; Adams, Genesis of Massachu- 
setts Towns, 186-187; Mann, Historical Annals of Dedham, 10, 33; 
Worthington, History of Dedham, 17, 18; Early Records of the 
Town of Dedham, Massachusetts (hereafter cited as Dedham Town 
Record), Vol. I, passim. 


Often, in that period, the procedure was still more 
irregular. The General Court controlled the planting of 
Agawam as early as 1633, when it limited the inhabitants 
to ten and forbade any person to settle there without 
permission first obtained from the Court. The next year, 
the plantation was named Ipswich and a committee of 
three members of the General Court was empowered to 
divide and allot land to any one whom "they shall thinke 
meete. ' ' The committee admitted the inhabitants and those 
to whom the committee granted land became the nucleus 
of the Ipswich proprietors. 44 Marblehead was made a 
plantation by the General Court in 1635 and no one was 
permitted to plant there without its permission. 45 The 
plantation of Winnacunnet, later Hampton, was granted 
to several petitioners in 1638 and a committee of three men 
were appointed "to assist in settling out the place of the 
town" and in proportioning the "several quantity" of land 
to each man or the settler-grantee. 46 In each one of these 
cases, there is no well defined system as yet, but the 
grantees alone invariably became the owners of the land 
and later the town proprietors. 

Suffield, Mass., forms a typical example of a grant of 
a later period and of more definite steps in the creation 
of proprietors. In 1669, 47 the people of Springfield took 
the initiative in settling a township and in May, 1670, 
they petitioned the General Court for the grant of a 
township. The Court acted twice upon the petition and 
granted a tract of six miles square in October of that year 

**Mass. Col. Bee, I: 76, 103, 136, 149. 

45 Hid., I: 147. 

46 Ibid., I: 236, 271. 

47 In 1660, the General Court granted a township at Stony Eiver, 
consisting of seven miles square, on condition that the grantees should 
settle twenty families and a minister in four years. But none set- 
tled and the grant became void. Mass. Col. Bee, IV-1: 423-424. 


under the following conditions: that twenty families be 
settled in five years ; that a minister be settled among them 
within the same period; that not more than eighty acres 
be granted to any one person until above twenty families 
are settled in the township ; and that there be reserved for 
the use of the general court five hundred acres, of which 
one hundred acres be used for the building of the meeting 
house. The court appointed a committee of six men from 
among the petitioners to manage the prudential affairs of 
the new plantation, including the survey and the allotment 
of land among the grantees. The survey of the township 
was made during the subsequent year and the report of the 
committee was confirmed early in 1674. In the meanwhile, 
the above committee of the original grantees proceeded to 
distribute the lands to the grantees, ranging from forty to 
sixty acres to each, and added other settlers to whom they 
also granted similar amounts of land. These original and 
admitted grantees of land in the township, including the 
members of the committee, became the proprietors of all 
land in Sufneld. In 1682, when the town was incorporated, 
there were one hundred and twelve proprietors in all, of 
whom sixty-two were head of families, and the number of 
proprietary rights remained the same ever since. 48 Thus, 
as in the other cases, it was the legal grantees who became 
the proprietors of Suffield. 

The settlement of Hadley, Mass., brings out, not only 
such details as the foregoing, in possibly clearer manner, 
but also the proprietors' covenant. A group of fifty-nine 

48 Mass. Col. Rec, IV-2: 460, 469; V: 12-13; Documentary His- 
tory of Suffield, 26-28, 46-52, 79-82. John Pynchon, in the name 
of the committee and the grantees, also purchased the territory 
from the Indians and each grantees paid 4d per acre before occupy- 
ing his land. This was the only money paid for the grant and 
became the cause of inequality from the beginning in the Suffield 


men from Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor > Conn., 
petitioned the Massachusetts General Court in 1658 for a 
grant of township in the Connecticut Valley. The General 
Court, acting favorably, granted the petition on May 19, 
1658 and on May 28, 1659, appointed a committee of five 
men, three from Springfield and two from Northampton, 
to lay out the bounds of the township. This committee 
made its report on September 30, 1659, giving the exact 
location and the boundary of the grant. The report was 
subsequently confirmed and the grant was accordingly 
made. Before the General Court had acted upon the 
petition, however, the petitioners, to the number of fifty- 
nine names, signed an elaborate agreement or a plantation 
covenant on April 18, 1659, binding themselves before 
settling and defining their rights as well as responsibilities 
in the settlement. Among other things, they agreed to 
transplant themselves and inhabit on the land granted for 
the purpose, to pay for the land in proportion to the shares 
held upon purchase from Indians, to raise all common 
charges, to cultivate land according to each one's share, 
to draw lots for so many acres of home lot and meadows 
upon settlement, and to forfeit their respective rights in 
case of neglect to settle and pay the proportional part of 
the charges. Most important of all, they bound themselves 
by the fifth agreement "that no man shall have liberty to 
sell any of his land till he shall inhabit and dwell in the 
town three years ; and also to sell it to no person, but such 
as the town shall approve on." These fifty-nine persons 
constituted the original proprietors of Hadley. By 1661, 
twenty-eight of them had settled in the township, while 
the remainder or their substitutes followed. 49 

49 Mass. Col. Eeo., IV- 1 : 328, 268 ; Proprietors ' Becords of Hadley, 
1665-1779, Mss. (hereafter cited as Hadley Proprietors' Records, 
Mss.) , passim ; Judd, History of Hadley, Chapter II, conveniently 
gives all documentary materials on the subject. 


In Connecticut towns the process was much, the same as 
in the Massachusetts towns. 50 Besides, these grants from 
the general court, we may note here also, in passing, that 
many towns branched off from the mother towns. This 
process was very familiar in the seventeenth century. In 
each of such cases, a group of people obtained the grant 
from the proprietors of the mother town first and then 
confirmation from the general court. The court usually 
confirmed the grant, often with an additional territory. 
Braintree from Boston, Deerfield from Dedham annex, or 
Enfield from Springfield are typical examples of such a 
process. 51 In this process, the grantees of the new planta- 
tion, as authorized by the proprietors of the mother town 
and confirmed by the general court, became the proprietors 
of the plantation ; it was often a separation of the original 
proprietary body. 

In all these cases where the general court granted new 
plantations, to which belong the majority of townships 
founded during the colonial period, 52 the land title invari- 
ably originated in the general court and the original 
grantees constituted the proprietors of the common and un- 
divided lands. The extinguishment of Indian titles or the 
squatting on the ground did not entitle one to a proprie- 
tary right when the land was granted by the general court. 
The original grantees were the sole owners of the land with- 
in the township and together with those settler-inhabitants 
whom they admitted into their company they exercised an 
exclusive control over the town land. They alone had the 

50 Mead, op. cit., 61-63. For actual examples, see Conn. Col. Bee, 
I: 210, 224, 225, 253; III: 58, 217, 177-178. 

si For other examples of this process, see McLear, op. cit., 26-27 ; 
Andrews, River Towns of Connecticut, 75-81. 

52 For the townships granted during the eighteenth century, see 
below, Chapter VII, "The Speculative Town Proprietors of the 
Eighteenth Century. " 


power "to give and grant out lands to any persons who 
were willing to take up town dwellings within these pre- 
cincts and to be admitted to all the common privileges of 
the town." 53 

The grantee proprietors with their admitted associates 
formed a reasonably definite group in every town, but, 
since the grantees included all, or nearly all, the inhabitants 
of the town, the distinction between the proprietors and the 
town as such or between the proprietors and non-proprie- 
tors was very vague during the early years. Consequently, 
as we shall see later, the town meetings would be at the 
same time proprietors' meetings until the time when the 
proprietors organized themselves as a separate organiza- 


The formation of Indians as proprietors in the New 
England colonies also had an evolution of its own. The 
first stage was the recognition and protection of Indian 
rights and property ; the second stage was the establishment 
of a sort of protectorate over them ; the third stage was the 
reservation or plantations for the exclusive use of the 
natives; and the last stage was the organization of the 
Indian proprietors in their respective plantations. 

Although it was the theory of the British Government 
and of the English colonies that the ultimate title to land 
was in the crown, that title was subject to the right of the 
natives. 54 It has been already pointed out that the natural 
right of the Indians to land was respected by the colonists 
and the Indian titles were very generally extinguished 
under the supervision of the general court. Moreover, the 

5 » Edward Johnson, Wonder Working Providence, quoted by Mc- 
Lear, op. cit., 14. 

c* Egleston, op. cit., 4-5. 


Plymouth and the Massachusetts Colonies carefully pro- 
vided by law for the keeping of bounds between the lands 
of the Indians — especially that which they planted — and 
that of the English. Both Colonies ordered that the corn 
lands of the Indians should be well fenced and that certain 
assistance might be rendered by the English in this work. 
The Connecticut Colony sought the same object by a general 
order forbidding any one to take away the corn or any 
other property including land "without ye owners con- 
sent . . . vnless it be by virtue of order from lawful 
authority." 55 The English attitude toward the Indian 
property right was generally fair and these guaranties con- 
stitute the first step in the development of Indian pro- 

For the next stage we must turn to Connecticut. One of 
the remarkable facts on the pages of New England history 
is the frequency of Indian troubles, both among the natives 
themselves and between English colonists and Indians. 
After a series of troublesome relations, the Connecticut 
Colony tried a sort of protectorate over the Indians. In 
1655, the system of tributeship, which had been tried since 
an early date with varying results, culminated in the sub- 
jection of the Pequots and the Niantics directly under the 
government of the English. Two of their leaders were ap- 
pointed as their governors respectively under the commis- 
sions issued by the New England Confederation. Special 
regulations were also issued for the government of these 
Indians and the governors were annually appointed, each 
with one or two Indian assistants. In 1661, two English- 
men were appointed under the title of overseers to assist 
the governors, and officials under this title continued there- 
after to be annually appointed. They were to advise them 

sspiym. Col. Bee, XI: 143, 213, 219, 220; The Colonial Laws of 
Massachusetts (hereafter cited as Mass. Laws) : 162 ; Conn. Col. Bee, 
I: 355. Also Osgood, op. cit., I: 532. 


in their administration and see that the Indians were not 
deprived of any rights by their English neighbors. They 
might hear and decide all but capital cases among the In- 
dians, and hear appeals from the decisions of the gov- 
ernors. 56 

While the system of protectorate was being worked out 
in Connecticut, the plan of reservations was already prac- 
ticed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Due mainly to the 
missionary efforts of John Eliot, five chiefs with their de- 
pendants, who afterward settled at Natickj voluntarily 
submitted themselves in 1645 to the government of Massa- 
chusetts and came under its protection. Seven years later, 
in 1652, the general court established the rule that "what 
landes any of the Indians within this jurisdictio haue by 
possession or improvement, by subdueing the same, they 
have just right thereunto" and "that if, vpon good ex- 
perience, there shall be a competent number of the Indians 
brought on to ciuilitie, so as to be capable of a townshipp, 
vppon theire request vnto the Generall Court they shall 
haue graunt of landes vndisposed off for a plantation, as 
the English haue. ' ' ° 7 On this principle the general court 
began to create plantations exclusively for the Indians in 
1653 and by 1665 there were six such plantations. 58 One 
of the cardinal principles in the founding of these planta- 
tions for the natives was that no land could be sold by the 
Indians except by the consent of the general court. 59 In 
order, therefore, to facilitate the transaction of land 

es Osgood, op. cit., 1 : 535-536. 

" Mass. Col. Bee, III : 281. The Indian title to land already pos- 
sessed was always confirmed in plantation grant. Ibid., Ill: 189, 
233 ; IV-1 : 102. The law of 1652 was questioned by the Eoyal Com- 
missioners in 1665. See Ibid., IV-2 : 213^. 

s&Ibid., Ill: 301, 348; IV-1: 137, 192, 317, 363; IV-2: 109-110, 

™ Ibid., IV-1: 363. 


matters and to supervise the plantation affairs, superin- 
tendents were thereafter appointed. These plantations 
were primarily made with a view to Christianizing* the 
natives and became the homes of the "praying Indians.' ' 
As such the system failed upon the outbreak of the King 
Philip's War. 

After the war, the policy of the Massachusetts govern- 
ment became stricter, but it still retained the plan of In- 
dian reservations. Thus, in May, 1677, the General Court 
enacted that all Indians who were permitted to live within 
the settlements of the colony, whether Christian or not, 
should be confined to one of the four plantations, namely, 
Natick, Punkapaug or Stoughton, Hassanamesit or Grafton, 
and Wamesit or Chelmsford. At the same time the In- 
dians at Piscataqua in Maine were settled near Dover. 60 
In these respective plantations, the Indians were subject 
to inspection, to be governed by such persons as the court 
or council should appoint, and a census of them was to 
be taken once a year. Among other things, they were re- 
strained from carrying guns in the woods and strictly 
forbidden to entertain any strangers from outside the col- 
ony without permission. 61 In 1681, a new order was passed 
by which all Indians were confined to one of these planta- 
tions; in 1682, additional territory was given to several of 
them; and in 1684, a deed of conveyance was provided 
especially for the Indians, very similar to that of the 
English proprietors. 62 Henceforward, the Indians enjoyed 
the land and its cultivation within those plantations, under 
the supervision, however, of English overseers. 

In the Connecticut Colony a similar system was adopted 
to complete the system of protectorate. Already in 1659, 
the Golden Hill reservation had been set off for the Pe- 
so Ibid., V: 136. 
si See Osgood, op. cit., 1 : 576. 
MMass. Col. Bee, V: 327-328-329, 342, and 531-535, respectively. 


quanock Indians on land which now lies within the limits 
of the city of Bridgeport. An addition was made to this 
reservation in 1680 for the benefit of the Indians of Mil- 
ford. The reservation for the Pequots was made in 1667 
and consisted of about two thousand acres of territory near 
New London. The Niantics were settled in 1683 in what 
is now the town of South Stoughton. This tract was not 
very large and was to be used by the Indians during the 
Court's pleasure. 63 

The Indians who were settled in these reservations or 
plantations enjoyed all the rights which the English settlers 
enjoyed in their township grants. The only difference was 
in the fact that the Indians were never possessed of the 
freedom of the English grantees; the natives were under 
the strict supervision of the colonial government and they 
could not even sell their land or proprietary right without 
the consent of the general court or its appointees. Other- 
wise, the Indians were guaranteed their proprietary rights 
and they became proprietors in every sense of the term 
within the limits of their plantations. They were even 
called the "Indian proprietors" in the official correspond- 
ence in 1688. 64 

However, the final stage in the development of Indian 
proprietors was not reached till the middle of the eight- 
eenth century. This is not at all strange when we re- 
member that not even the English proprietors were 
organized till the first quarter of the eighteenth century. 
The case of the Indian proprietors of Stockbridge, Mass., 
is a typical example of the last stage of this development. 

The General Court, on December 29, 1749, declared that 

63 Conn. Col. Bee, I: 336; II: 7, 55, 68, 81, 444-445; III: 8-9, 
117, 125; Plym. Col. Bee, X: 332; Osgood, op. cit., I: 536. 

e* Col. Robert Treat to Sir Edmund Andros, May 23, 1688, in 
Massachusetts Archives, Usurpation, Mss., CXI: 215. See also Mass. 
Acts and Besolves, XII: 180, 500. 


"the Indians of the Housatonic Tribe, who were and have 
been settled as proprietors of lands within the township 
of Stockbridge, and their heirs and descendants, are and 
shall be a distinct propriety" and appointed Timothy 
Dwight to go and call a proprietors' meeting. It was his 
duty to ascertain the number of proprietors and each pro- 
prietor's portion, to call a meeting and choose the usual 
officers, to divide and distribute their undivided lands, and 
also to admit other Indians to the privilege of the pro- 
priety. A legal notice was posted at Stockbridge accord- 
ingly and Dwight organized the propriety. After two 
days' careful investigations, he found that only thirteen 
of them, including Captain Konkopot, owned 1,670 acres 
and admitted sixty members, including four of other tribes. 
He then ordered the division of land by which ten received 
eighty acres, ten sixty acres, thirty-nine fifty acres, and 
one ten acres. Then the first meeting of the Indian pro- 
prietors, whose rights were thus defined, was organized 
and they managed their affairs under the supervisions of 
the three guardians who were appointed by the General 
Court. 65 

In all cases, the selling of land or the proprietary right 
was prohibited except under the permission of the general 
court, while the allotment and distribution of land among 
the Indian proprietors were supervised by the guardians 
appointed by the general court. These points were estab- 
lished by a series of laws both in Massachusetts and Connec- 

65 Canning, Indian Land Grants in Stockbridge, 47-48, 49-50, 
52-54, quoting Massachusetts Archives and the proprietors' records. 
See also Journals of the House of 'Representatives of Massachusetts 
(hereafter cited as Mass. House Journal), for June 22 and 28, 1737; 
for 1762, 28, 31. For the other Indian reservations, see Mass. Acts 
and Eesolves, VII: 130; 322; 199, 218, 251, 320; Mass. House 
Journal, Dec. 3, 4, 1736; June 21, 1738. 


ticut. 66 That these laws were strictly enforced is clearly- 
shown by the number of references to the applications and 
authorizations of land sales throughout the colonial period 
and also by the appointment of the ' ' guardians ' ' in Massa- 
chusetts and the "overseers" in Connecticut. 67 On the 
other hand, the Indian proprietors were a source of con- 
stant trouble, particularly in relation to the land transac- 
tions among themselves and with their white neighbors. 


If we now compare the proprietors of the seventeenth 
century and those of the eighteenth century, 68 a few general 
characteristic features stand out in contrast. 

The first and most marked characteristic of the old town 
proprietors of the seventeenth century is the fact that, 
generally speaking, they were resident proprietors in direct 
contrast with the speculative and absentee proprietors of 
the eighteenth century. This was the natural result of 
many factors. The general court followed a prudent and 
cautious policy of granting land where there was an urgent 
necessity for actual settlement; its policy was dominated 
by socio-religious motives and there was as yet no indication 
of the commercial element in the township grant nor any 
speculative influence in land transactions. Then too, the 
settlements were effected "by congregations, by neighbor- 
hood, by families" and "the group was moved by an im- 
pulse which at the outset was shared by all or nearly all 

wMass. Acts and Eesolves, II: 104, 363-365; III: 306, 679; IV: 
163-164, 530, 974; V: 175, 459, 1122. Conn. Col. Bee, X: 282, 306, 

6 7 Mass. Acts and Eesolves and Conn. Col. Bee. are full of these 

fl 8 For more detailed presentation of the characteristics of the 
eighteenth century proprietors, see below Chapter VII "The Specu- 
lative Proprietors of the Eighteenth Century." 


its members," Also, since they were pioneers in an un- 
known country and amid hostile Indians, there was a 
necessity for compact settlement for the purpose of defense 
and mutual comfort; the settlers were pioneers alike and 
shared the toil equally among themselves. The Puritan 
love of religion and education played an important part, 
while the common social impulse kept them together. 
Moreover, the new towns were often offshoots or extensions 
of the original centers, whether by the division of old ones 
or by the formation of new and remote villages. To crown 
it all, the general court had the complete control over the 
land questions and the details of the founding of towns. 
It was the first stage in the establishment of the new fron- 
tiers and the later "eastern men of property" were as yet 
toiling pioneers themselves, at least in the majority of the 
cases. Thus such terms as the * ' inhabitants, ' ' the ' ' plant- 
ers," the "settlers," and the "goers" were all used to 
designate the proprietors in the old towns. 

It is true that there were non-resident proprietors in 
many towns, but it is also true that their number was com- 
paratively small, almost negligible in the majority of the 
seventeenth century townships. Moreover, they were scat- 
tered in small numbers over many towns and the effect 
of their existence was little felt till later. In the cases 
where the new town was the offshoot of the original and 
distant center, as that of Braintree from Boston or Deer- 
field from Dedham, the evil effect of the absentees was felt 
and controversies followed ; also on the frontier line along 
the Merrimac River where the Indians were constant men- 
ace the absentee proprietors existed. But these cases 
were exceptional. As the radius of the frontier line be- 
came wider toward the latter part of the seventeenth 
century, the non-resident proprietors began to increase and 
already at the close of the century absenteeism was becom- 


ing a vexatious problem in itself, particularly with respect 
to the frontier settlers, 69 The proprietors of the eighteenth 
century are decidedly non-resident in this respect. 

Another characteristic feature of the seventeenth century 
proprietors was the faint distinction between the proprie- 
tors and the town. When the original grant was made by 
the general court, the town and the proprietors were ap- 
proximately the same ; indeed, the town was no more than 
an instrument of government which was set up by the 
proprietor-inhabitants themselves. A town meeting was, 
under the circumstances, at the same time a proprietors ' 
meeting. When the question of making land grants came 
up for discussion in the town meeting — for the land ques- 
tion constituted a very important business of the town 
meeting in the early history of towns — the town meeting 
was acting in the capacity of a board of proprietors. Until 
the definite organization of the proprietors in the following 
century, no record of the proprietors as such was kept and, 
consequently, the allotments of land and the regulations 
connected therewith were entered indiscriminately in the 
town record with the other forms of town business. The 
colonial governments, 70 too, recognized such a procedure as 
legal at first and the "town dealt with the land within the 
township without reference to the "proprietors," while 
the selectmen or the special committees acted as agent of 
the town in the surveying and allotments of lands. It was 
only from the close of the seventeenth century that the 
clear distinction was first made between the town and the 
proprietors and their respective functions were legally 

69 For some examples of absentee proprietors in the seventeenth 
century, see Turner, First Official Frontier of Massachusets Bay, 

70 See for example, the Massachusetts order of 1636 and the Con- 
necticut orders of 1639 and 1643. Mass. Col. Bee, 1: 173; Conn. 
Col. Bee, I: 36, 101. 


separated; 71 this distinction was completed in the eight- 
eenth century. 

Closely related to this lack of distinction between the pro- 
prietors and the town, is the fact that the proprietors of the 
seventeenth century had no legal proprietary organizations. 
In most of the towns the grantees included all, or nearly 
all, the inhabitants of the town and there was no necessity 
of protecting the proprietary right; there was indeed no 
problem. Moreover, as long as the town meetings and the 
town records safely served their purpose in every respect, 
the necessity of proprietary organizations was not felt. 
The exclusive character of the proprietors of the seven- 
teenth century, on the other hand, emanated from within 
rather than from without ; it was the consciousness on the 
part of the proprietors that kept them distinctly as an 
invisible privileged class, while those who were simply free- 
men or merely inhabitants were not vividly conscious of 
their difference. The proprietary position and rights and 
actions indeed, were a matter of tradition. But the growth 
of population gradually changed the whole situation. In 
the first place, it augmented the non-proprietor element in 
the town population, and the proprietors' control of the 
town meeting, even in the matter of land regulations, be- 
came weaker and weaker until the balance of power was 
decisively in favor of the non-proprietors. And, since 
there was no clear distinction, the town and the non-pro- 
prietors began to claim their right in the common and un- 
divided lands. Then also, it increased the value of land 
and the common and undivided lands became the focus 
point of all eager eyes. The proprietors became alarmed 
and began to protect their right by all means. Thus it was 
only toward the close of the cectury that the general court 

7 * For a more detailed account of this subject, see below Chapter 
III, "The Organization of the Town Proprietors. ' ' 


for the first time began to legislate thereupon and in conse- 
quence the proprietors gradually took steps to organize 
themselves. 72 In the meanwhile, the proprietors of the 
seventeenth century remained unorganized. 

Being actual residents and a more or less unified group, 
there was much more cooperative spirit among the pro- 
prietors in the seventeenth century than in the eighteenth 
century. This is clearly shown by the curious system of 
common fields. The proprietors owned in common and cul- 
tivated in common certain tract or tracts of lands which 
they set aside as the common fields. More often, when a 
given portion of common land had been divided among the 
proprietors, they allowed the land to remain in one common 
field and each owner improved his own part in his own way, 
depasturing the field after the crops had been removed. 
There were several of these fields in many old towns and 
each proprietor might be interested in several of them since 
his holdings were scattered over many fields. Thus arose 
the term * ' commoners, " as we have already seen, by which 
the seventeenth century proprietors were more usually 
known. The commoners of each field regulated and settled 
all questions of cultivating and planting their common field, 
while they built fences around all common fields in propor- 
tion to their respective shares therein, usually under the 
supervision of the town and its appointees. The proprie- 
tors also pastured in common after the crops had been re- 
moved and they enjoyed the commonage of woods or stones. 
Everything was done in common, although it was based 
upon ownership in severalty. It was in connection with 
such a system of common fields that there arose any sharp 
division between the land community and the political com- 
munity during the seventeenth century as at Cambridge 

72 See below Chapter III, ' ' The Organization of the Town Pro- 
prietors. ' ' 


and Salem; at Salem the commoners were even definitely- 
organized from an early date in connection with each com- 
mon field. The " commoners ' ' and the "common fields,' ' 
however, were characteristically seventeenth century affairs 
and gradually, if not completely, died away in the follow- 
ing' century. 73 

37 See below Chapter IV, "The Activities of the Town Proprie- 
tors. " See also, McLear, op. oit., 87-105; Osgood, op. cit., I: 451 
Jf; Adams, Common Fields of Salem. 




The institution of the proprietors in the New England 
colonies is as old as the colonies themselves. Yet, their 
organization as a propriety, separate and distinct from the 
town corporate, dates from much later period. 

Due mainly to the lack of distinction between the town 
and the propriety during the earlier years, the early his- 
tory of the proprietors in their corporate capacity is buried 
in obscurity. In some cases the land ownership antedated 
the town organization, but almost universally the political 
and economic community developed together. Thus, al- 
though the distinction between the town and the propriety 
was generally observed in theory from an early date, they 
blended together in practice and the town meeting served 
at the same time as a proprietors' meeting. This was due 
in part to the fact that, in early towns, the inhabitants were 
all proprietors or there were very few who were non-pro- 
prietors, and in part to the important part which the busi- 
ness of land grant played in the early town meetings. In 
the former case the two bodies were substantially the same 
and naturally the questions relating to land and local 
government were discussed indiscriminately and one town 
record served for both ; while in the latter case the town 
meeting, when the land questions were taken up, was turned 



into a proprietors' meeting and acted as a board of pro- 

It becomes significant that the towns kept, in the earlier 
years the entire power of disposing of the town land. 1 In 
the town of Plymouth it was always a principle, which was 
reiterated in 1657 and was in force until proprietors ' meet- 
ing was legally called in 1682, "that all lands or pcells of 
lands that shalbee graunted to any within this towneship 
. . . shalbee graunted openly in towne meetings. " 2 In 
Salem also, at least during the earlier years, the town ex- 
ercised a similar power through its selectmen and com- 
mittees. 3 In Boston the selectmen, under the authority 
from the town, made allotments; at times, commissioners 
were appointed by the same authority to divide and allot 
certain tracts of the town land. 4 Such was also true in 
Dedham where, as late as 1682, the proprietors refused to 
name a committee to manage the granting of land and 
vested the authority in the selectmen. 5 In Weymouth the 
management of the common was entirely in the hands of 
the town ; 6 in Watertown the town managed the land until 
1714 when the proprietors took the matter into their hands, 7 

1 See Osgood, op. cit., 1 : 462-464 ; Adams, Genesis of Massachu- 
setts Towns, 8ff. 

2 Records of the Town of Plymouth, 1636-1783 (hereafter cited 
as Plymouth Town Records), I: 35. 

3 Salem Town Records, 1634-1680 (hereafter cited as Salem Town 
Records), in Essex Institute Historical Collections, IXL: 108, 109, 
110, 114, 118-119, etc. 

* Boston Records and Boole of Possessions (hereafter cited as Bos- 
ton Town Records), Boston Eecord Commissioners ' Report, Vol. II, 
Part I: 3, 5, 9, etc. 

5 Mann, Historical Annals of Dedham, 20. Dedham Town Re- 
cords, passim. 

6 Nash, Historical Sketch of the Town of Weymouth, 34, 50, etc. 
Adams, Genesis of Massachusetts Towns, 22-23. 

7 Watertown Records, I, passim; Watertown Proprietors' Records, 
1//., 151//. 


while in Cambridge the land was divided and allotted by 
the town and proprietors together in the town meetings. 8 
In Duxbury, Hingham, Roxbury, Braintree, Topsfield, Gro- 
ton, Woburn, Tynn, Ipswich, Newbury, and Rowley the 
town meeting and its appointees made or withheld all 
grants of land. 9 

The situation was very similar in the Connecticut towns. 
During the greater part of the seventeenth century it be- 
came customary in most of the towns in that Colony to make 
allotment of land and provide for the regulation of the un- 
divided land in the town meetings. 10 In the original three 
river towns, for instance, the town meetings controlled the 
land question until the proprietors separately organized 
themselves to take charge of the town lands. 11 In Enfield 
the town meetings divided and allotted the land until 1711 
when the proprietors organized themselves for independent 
action. 12 The regular town meetings freely granted lands 
in New Haven until 1685 when the General Court conferred 
that power exclusively to the proprietors. 13 The attitude 
of the General Court, moreover, seemed to confirm the view 
that the towns should have the power to regulate their 

s Cambridge Town Records and Cambridge Proprietors' Records, 
passim. The town meetings and the proprietors' meetings were 
same for many years. 

9 Beeords of the respective towns. Osgood, op. cit., 1 : 463 ; 
Adams, Genesis of Massachusetts Towns, 8//. 

io Mead, op. cit., 64. 

ii Andrews, River Towns of Connecticut, 48//.; Hartford Town 
Votes, I: 13, 15, 16-19, 21-24, 208, 209, etc. The proprietors and 
the town were same; in Wethersfield, the town overshadowed the 
proprietors; in Windsor, the proprietors overshadowed the town; 
while in Hartford, the balance was equally divided. 

12 Allen, History of Enfield, I (Commoners' Booh): 96-99, 116, 
283//., 315, 681, etc. 

is Blake, Chronicles of New Haven Green from 1638-1862; Gip- 
son, Jared Ingersoll, 20. 


common lands, at least during the early years. 14 In 1639, 
for example, in defining the power of towns, the General 
Court stated that the "Towns of Hartford, Windsor and 
Wethersfield, or any other towns within this jurisdiction, 
shall each of them have power to dispose of their lands 
undisposed of. " 15 A similar view was again expressed in 
1643. 16 Such was also true in the older towns in New 
Hampshire and until 1685 in Rhode Island. 

As we approach the close of the seventeenth century, 
however, the distinction between the proprietors and the 
other inhabitants of the towns becomes more and more 
marked. The proprietors, the original settlers and their 
descendants, were relatively a fixed group and their num- 
ber remained comparatively small. On the other hand, the 
number of inhabitants who were not descendants of the 
original settlers was constantly augmented by incessant 
immigration of new comers. Such an increase in the town 
population in turn increased the value of the town land in a 
direct ratio. As a result we find developing in most of 
the towns two distinct classes of inhabitants, the proprie- 
tors who had control over the land and the non-proprietors, 
the new comers, who had no such right. As the latter class 
increased in number, they would, in the natural course of 
events, sooner or later come to hold the balance of power 
in the town meeting and, as the administration of land had 
become a function of the town meetings, they would control 
the distribution of the undivided land. Accordingly the 
proprietors found it necessary to guard their right and 
the distinction between the civil and economic rights of 
the inhabitants gradually came to be established. 

Such a separation of powers did not come at one time 
throughout the Colonies. In some towns it followed almost 

i* Mead, op. cit., 64. 
is Conn. Col. Bee, 1 : 36. 
™IMoZ., I: 101. 


at the heels of the founding of the towns ; in others it was 
deferred for several generations; and in still others it was 
compromised between the two parties. 17 Thus it was, that, 
earlier or later, the proprietors were definitely organized 
as a propriety, distinct from the corporate towns. Once 
separately organized the proprietary rights were generally 
recognized by the towns and the political and economic 
elements of the community were very clearly marked out. 
At Haverhill, Mass., for example, the town refused to act 
on a petition for a land grant in 1702 ' ' because, not directed 
to the proprietors of lands but to the town, many of whom 
have no power to vote in the disposal of the lands. " 18 At 
Wenham, Mass., when the proprietary rights were ques- 
tioned, the town confirmed them. 19 In many towns, how- 
ever, the rights of the respective parties were not so clearly 
understood. In the towns where the proprietors were still 
in the majority, no effective opposition was made to their 
claims; while in others where the non-proprietors equalled 
or outnumbered the proprietors, the pretensions of the 
latter were not quietly acquiesced in and numerous con- 
troversies arose, either in the name of the proprietors or 
the non-proprietors. 20 

1 7 In Manchester, Mass., land questions were dealt with both at 
the town and proprietors' meetings. Town Records of Manchester, 
I: 21-27, etc. See also Worth, Nantucket Land and Land Owners, 

is Chase, History of Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1646-1860 (here- 
after cited as Chase, History of Haverhill), 205, quoting the town 

19 Allen, History of Wenham, Civil and Ecclesiastical (hereafter 
cited as Allen, History of Wenham), 50. 

20 See below Chapter IV, "The Controversies of the Town Pro- 
prietors. ' ' 



The organization of the proprietors which was practiced 
in some towns from an early date seems to have been a 
matter of choice and was not rigidly carried out at first. 
At best the town meetings served their purpose, the pro- 
priety being nearly coterminous with the town. As the 
proprietors began to realize the importance of guarding and 
defending their rights, due to the reasons already described, 
the General Courts came to their rescue by passing laws 
and legally organizing them into an independent propriety. 

The organization of proprietors became universal after 
1682 in the Plymouth Colony and 1698 in the Massachusetts 
Bay Province. The General Court at Plymouth, in 1682, 
decreed that "Town should cause proprietors' meeting" in 
dealing with the division of land and provided further that 
"what shall be lawfully acted at such meeting by the pro- 
prietors, or the major part of them, shall be valid and 
binding. ' ' 21 The Massachusetts Act of 1698 legally au- 
thorized that a third part of the propriety "shall and may 
call and summon a meeting of the whole from time to time 
as there shall be cause. ' ' 22 Another fifteen years had to 
elapse, however, before a more detailed direction was given 
them. On March 25, 1713, the General Court provided a 
definite formula by ' ' An act directing how meeting of pro- 
prietors of land lying in common may be called. " 23 It 
decreed that "when five or more of the proprietors shall 
judge a proprietors' meeting to be necessary, they make 
application to the justices of the peace for a warrant for 
the calling of a meeting," designating time, place, and 

ziPlym, Col. Bee, XI, Laws, 257. 

22 Mass. Acts and Resolves, I (Province Laws) : 334, See. 3. 
As to the legal recognition of the proprietors' rights, see the Act 
of 1692 below, p. 74. 

23 Mass. Acts and Resolves, I: 704. 


occasion thereof; that, when a warrant is issued, one of 
the proprietors thus asking or the clerk should notify the 
other proprietors concerning the meeting and should have 
the public notices of such a meeting posted fourteen days 
before the appointed day of the meeting ; that the proprie- 
tors as assembled "shall have power, by a major vote," to 
choose a clerk to keep the records of the proceedings; and 
that they agree and appoint "any other way or method 
of calling or summoning the meetings for the future as shall 
be most suitable and convenient for the proprietors. ' ' 24 
An additional act, which was passed in 1753, reiterated 
the original act, except for two things: it ordered that 
forty days notice of the meeting be placed in several Boston 
weeklies or newspapers, and that, besides a clerk, they were 
to choose such "other officers as are usually chosen by the 
other proprieties. ' ' 25 

The year 1713, then, is the dividing line between the 
legal and the traditional proprietors' meetings in the Massa- 
chusetts Bay Province and the proprietors in many towns 
accordingly proceeded to organize themselves. In Water- 
town, for example, the proprietors' meeting, though it 
had been held for over fifty years, was legally called for 
the first time in 1714 according to the act of 1713 and 
proceeded "to take a list of the Proprietors and their 
Propriete, so fare as may be known at Present, and to 
consider of claimes that may be made by any Person or 
Persons that may be doubtf ull. ' ? 26 It also shows how 
doubtful the status and the membership of the proprietors 
were up to that time even in such a well organized ancient 
town as Watertown. In Lancaster the proprietors and 

s* The powers of such meetings will be discussed more fully as 
the study develops. 

25 Mass. Acts and Resolves, III (Province Laws) : 669-670. This 
Aet had a particular reference to the newly created towns. 

26 Watertown Proprietors' Records, I: 150, 151. 


the town met together until 1716 when the proprietors or- 
ganized themselves independent of the town, in accordance 
with the Act of 1713. 27 The first legal meeting of the Gro- 
ton proprietors was not held until 17 17, 28 while that of 
Deerfield proprietors was not organized until 1718. 29 In 
Cambridge the first legal proprietors' meeting was called 
in 1698 according to the first act. In each of these cases 
the proprietors' meetings had been held in conjunction 
with the town meetings in the preceding years but they 
were not legally recognized under the colonial laws. From 
the time the proprietors were legally organized the meet- 
ings and their records became of value, nothing else giving 
evidences of legal title to land at a later date. 

In the Connecticut Colony the final and definite organi- 
zation of proprietors was not authorized until 1723. The 
attitude of the General Court had been at first, as we have 
already seen, that the towns were empowered to regulate 
and dispose of the common lands. The first indication of 
a change of view on the part of the Court was in 1685 when 
patents were first issued to the various towns. In these 
patents it was conceded that the lands in the respective 
towns was granted "to the said proprietors inhabitants, 
their heirs and assigns. " 30 In confirming the patents of 
several towns in 1703, the Court recognized the proprietary 
rights to land in even stronger words, that "all and every 
the several above mentioned lands with all rights and im- 
munities contained in the above mentioned patent, shall be 
and remain a full and clear estate of inheritance in fee 
simple to the several proprietors of the respective towns." 31 

27 Early Records of Lancaster, Massachusetts, 1643-1725, 5. 

28 Butler, History of the Town of Groton, 26, quoting the Groton 
Records. 29 Sheldon, History of Deerfield, Massachusetts, 1 : 495, 

30 Conn. Col. Bee, III: 117. For possible reasons of such a 
change, see Mead, op. cit., 67. 
si Conn. Col. Bee, IV: 443; Mead, op. cit., 67. 


Fourteen years later, in 1717, the proprietors of common 
fields were recognized as sole owners of all fields which at 
that time were considered common and they were em- 
powered to choose a clerk "to enter all the acts and votes 
of the said proprietors, relating to the good management 
of the said common fields. ' ' 32 Three years later, in 1720, 
the General Court, in connection with the controversy in 
New London, had shown its final attitude in regard to the 
proprietors' right to land in any towns. It ruled that the 
patent to the town did ' ' confirm the lands in said township 
to each and every proprietor in such towns, and to such 
as have any distinct propriety there though not living in 
such towns . . . also all lands not divided or disposed to 
hold as tenants in common; all of which undivided lands 
were confirmed to them, the said proprietors, their heirs 
and assigns, so that no person by becoming an inhabitant 
afterwards could have any right to dispose of any land in 
said town by voting in a town meeting." At the same 
time the General Court decreed that all titles to land 
which had been previously obtained by town votes were to 
be valid. 33 

The change was now complete on the part of the General 
Court and in May, 1723, it enacted "An act for the better 
establishing and confirming of the titles of lands . . ." 
After referring in the preamble to the "ancient" right 
of the towns to handle land questions in the town meet- 
ings and its vexatious result in the form of pretentions 
against proprietors' interest, it confirmed all those trans- 
actions already consummated. It then ordered that the 
proprietors should maintain their ancient rights and that 

32 Conn. Col. Bee, VI: 25. An additional act was passed in 1723 . 
Ibid., VI: 276. 

S3 Ibid., VI: 189. For more detailed description of the contest 
and the general procedure of the General Court, see Mead, op. cit., 


no new inhabitant should get such right without proprie- 
tary consent or grant ; that they should have legal meetings 
in each respective town to choose a clerk "to enter and 
record their votes and doings ' ' ; and that they should have 
full power in such meetings "by their major vote to regu- 
late, improve, manage, & divide such common land in such 
manner & proportion as they shall see good. ' ' 34 An addi- 
tional act which was passed in October of the same year 
regulated how the meetings should be warned and held : 
when five or more proprietors shall see that such a meeting 
is necessary they should apply to assistants or justices of 
peace for warrant, stating the time, place, and business 
of the proposed meeting ; warrant was to be issued by said 
authorities for such a meeting; notice for the meeting was 
to be posted in a public place at least six days in advance ; 
the proprietors so gathered were to have full power to 
agree upon any other way or method of warning their 
meeting for the future as they think fit. 35 The proprietors, 
having thus carried their point, in many of the towns, 
especially in the older ones, took steps to organize 
themselves in a more permanent manner as did the proprie- 
tors in the Massachusetts Bay Province. 

In Rhode Island the legal recognition of proprietors 
and their right to land was made much earlier than in any 
other Colony. The Assembly at Newport, in May, 1682, 
passed an act confirming to the proprietors, "their heirs & 
assigns forever" all lands in the enumerated towns "by 
virtue of any such purchase or purchases" which they 
might have made. It further recognized as legal, for the 
better management of their affairs, the meetings of pro- 

z±Conn. Col. Bee, VI: 394-397. For legislative materials on this 
act, see Connecticut Archives, Towns and Lands, Mss., Ill: 231 and 
IV: 76. 

ss Conn. Col. Bee, VI : 424. Other additional acts were passed 


prietors " being- convened by a warrant from under the 
band & seal of an Assistant, or Judge of the Peace in such 
Towns" and authorized the proprietors, at such a meeting, 
to elect a clerk and other officers necessary for the work of 
the propriety and to order all business of the organization 
by a major vote. 36 In New Hampshire the proprietors' 
meetings were legalized in 1718 by "An act for the better 
regulating of town and proprietary meetings," the details 
of which were very similar to those of the other Colonies. 37 
The next year the proprietors were empowered "to manage, 
improve, divide or dispose" of all the common and undi- 
vided lands by "the major part of such proprietors" to 
whom the lands had been granted. 38 

The proprietors thus organized formed a quasi-conporai- 
tion. They held meetings regularly, distinct from the 
town meetings, and thenceforth controlled exclusively the 
regulation and disposal of the common and undivided lands. 

The method of calling the proprietors' meetings was, in 
general, in strict conformity to the colonial laws. Such 
a process may be summarized as follows : a certain number 
of proprietors request the clerk of the propriety to call a 
meeting ; 39 the clerk, or sometimes several proprietors them- 
selves, then apply to the justices of peace 40 for a warrant 

36 Dorr, op. cit., 107-109, gives a complete transcript of this law. 
In Providence, the proprietors were not separately organized till 
1718. Ibid., 126-127. 

37 Documents and Papers relating to the Province and State of 
New Hampshire (hereafter cited as New Hampshire State Papers), 
III: 738. May 14, 1718. 38 Feb. 8, 1719. 5 Geo. I., C. 87, s. 3. 

39 Five or more proprietors could call a meeting in Connecticut 
(Act of 1723). The same was true in Massachusetts by the Act 
of 1717 but it was changed to two or more persons in 1718. Mass. 
Acts and Besolves, II: 100. The proprietors made their own regu- 
lations in this matter. 

40 In Massachusetts the justices of peace alone had the legal 
power to issue such a warrant. In Connecticut and Rhode Island 
either Assistant or justices of peace had that power. 


to call such a meeting, stating the time, place, and business 
of the proposed meeting; the said authorities accordingly 
issue the warrant authorizing the meeting; the clerk 
proceeds to post in advance 41 the notices of the meeting in 
public places in one or several towns or inserts them in the 
newspapers, according to the law in force, such notices 
always consisting of the warrant and the full details of the 
business to be transacted; then the proprietors meet on 
the date fixed at the place designated. 42 Sometimes, the 
application for such a warrant was made directly to the 
General Court, which body either authorized the meeting 
asked for or directed the proprietors to apply for one to 
the proper authorities according to the law. 43 The pro- 
prietors thus summoned and assembled were looked upon 

4i Six days notice in Connecticut (Act of 1723). In Massachu- 
setts, fourteen days notice by the Act of 1713, thirty days by the Act 
of 1726, and forty days by the Act of 1753 (Mass. Acts and Re- 
solves, I: 704; II: 408; III: 669). 

42 See the preceding section for the laws in several Colonies. 

4 3 This method was used: (1) for calling the first meeting in cer- 
tain cases; (2) where the proprietors' clerk died or where there 
was no responsible person to act in his capacity; and (3) where 
there was no method provided for in calling future meetings. A 
few examples of each cases may be given. For (1), see Mass. Acts 
and Resolves, XII: 238, 294, 341, 551, 644, etc., for calling the first 
proprietors' meetings of the Canada Townships. Also Massachu- 
setts Archives, Mss., CXV: 210. For (2), see Mass. Acts and Re- 
solves, XIV: 585, where the clerk died; Massachusetts Archives, 
Mss., CXVI: 157-158, where there was no clerk. For (3), see 
Mass. Acts and Resolves, VI: 144, where the warrant was altered; 
Ibid., XIV: 96, where no method for calling future meetings was 
provided for; Conn. Col. Rec, "VIII: 180-181, where legal proprie- 
tors' meetings was desired against the pretended meetings; Massa- 
chusetts Archives, Mss., CXV: 241, no method for calling meetings. 
To remedy this situation, an act was passed in Massachusetts in 
1774 ordering the "owners," in case the clerk died or otherwise 
disabled, to call meetings according to the Law of 1713. Mass. 
Acts and Resolves, V: 387-388. 


as legally met and organized, and their transactions by 
their major vote were legal in every way in the eyes of the 
law ; and affairs transacted in any other manner ipso facto 
had no legal force whatsoever. 44 As to future meetings, 
the proprietors in their legally warned meetings agreed, 
according to the law, upon the method of calling among 
themselves, usually by appointing a committee for the 
purpose or empowering a certain number of proprietors 
to request such a meeting. 45 These procedures, though 
troublesome as they seem, were carefully followed to an 
amazing degree of regularity in all New England Colonies. 
The proprietors' meeting thus authorized was called 
regularly in all proprieties at least once a year, and its 
adjourned meetings were held almost monthly; in some 
cases meetings were held several times within a month or 
oftener according to the need of the time. Every meeting 
everywhere, when assembled, had two officers : the modera- 
tor who was usually elected at every meeting and acted as 
its presiding officer; and the clerk whose duty it was to 
appoint the place of meeting, to notify the proprietors to 
attend, and to keep the records of the proceedings both 
within and without such meetings. In some proprieties 
the attendance at the proprietors ' meetings was compulsory 

4 4 See for example the Supreme Court opinions in Pitts vs. Tem- 
ple, 2 Massachusetts 538 (1807) and Woodridge vs. Proprietors of 
Addison, 6 Vermont 204 (1834). In the latter case, the meeting 
not legally warned was ruled void; while in the former case, the 
grant of land made in a meeting not legally called was ruled void. 

45 Illustrations : clerk upon request of 5 proprietors at Savoy 
(Proprietors ' Records, Mss., 7); Committee of Five at Cohasset 
(Proprietors' Eecords of Conihasset Grant, Mss., 199) and Keene 
(proprietors' record for June 27, 1734); committee of three at 
Saybrook, Conn., (Records of the Proprietors' Meetings of Pota- 
qauge Quarter, (hereafter cited as Saybrook Proprietors' Eecords, 
Mss., 99) ; committee of ten proprietors at Windham, Me., (Dole, 
Windham in the Pust, 15-16). 


and even a small fine was imposed for non-attendance. 
The meetings were conducted in accordance with parlia- 
mentary order and the minutes were faithfully kept, par- 
ticularly the votes and resolves. 

The business of such proprietors' meetings at times took 
diverse forms. The Massachusetts Act of 1753, for ex- 
ample, defined the procedure as follows: to agree upon 
the method of calling future meetings ; to choose clerk and 
other necessary officers for the management of the affairs 
of the propriety; to transact any of the business of the 
propriety, such as the division of land, provided that such 
matters are previously mentioned in the notices; and to 
levy taxes for the better carrying on of the work of the 
propriety. 46 In Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hamp- 
shire, besides the election of officers and provision for 
future meetings, emphasis was placed on the regulation, 
improvement, management, and division of the common 
and undivided lands. 47 Thus it was that, in the proprietors ' 
meetings, officers were elected, by-laws were promulgated, 
taxes were levied, lands were divided and allotted, and 
general plans were formulated. In other words, these 
meetings were the only place where the business of the 
propriety could be legally transacted; it was a cabinet 
meeting and at the same time a clearing house. Generally 
speaking, however, the division and regulation of common 
and undivided lands were the main subjects at all proprie- 
tors' meetings and the propriety usually dissolved itself 
when its land was completely divided up among its mem- 
bers. Naturally the proprietors' records are mainly the 
records of land divisions and transactions, often being 
nothing else. 48 The proprietors' meeting, then, was a 

^Mass. Acts and Besolves, III: 669-670. 

47 See the Connecticut Act of 1723, the Rhode Island Act of 
1682, and the New Hampshire Act of 1719, already quoted. 

48 See below the section on proprietors ' records. 


miniature town meeting in which the focus of discussion 
was placed exclusively on land questions. 

Aside from the business purpose of the proprietary 
meetings, it is important to note that they had also a social 
significance. The proprietors ' meeting was, in many towns, 
the only occasion when a majority of proprietors assembled 
under one roof and naturally it was the scene of much 
merry-making. This was particularly true where the 
proprietors were scattered over several towns. Liquor was 
freely served and all kind of social gossip was passed 
around; at times even entertainments were furnished — all 
at the expense of the propriety. 49 Often the proprietors' 
meeting was but a social gathering, the business part being 
placed behind the scene under the guise of adjournment. 
Moreover, in order to make the meeting a success, both in 
its business and in its social aspect, the expenses of meeting 
as well as of travelling were often paid out of the treasury. 50 

The central figure in any propriety was the clerk. He 
was elected by the major vote at the proprietors' meeting 
and was duly sworn into the office for faithful service 

*» The proprietors of Newton Canada (Alstead, N. H.), for ex- 
ample, voted on Feb. 8, 1739, that "the charge of the meeting be 
born by the whole society" and that "there shall be no licker 
brought to the society that shall be charged for, but what is ordered 
by the Committee. " Proprietors' Records, quoted in Society of 
Colonial Wars, Massachusetts, Publications, 1898, 206-207. 

so The best example is that of Housatonic No. 3 where the ex- 
pense of proprietors' meetings was regularly paid by the proprie- 
tors' treasurer: £2-2-8, £2-11-3, £3-17-0, £5-0-8, £16-0-8, etc. 
When the meeting was called in Woodstock in 1752, £52-16-6 were 
paid out as part of the travelling expenses. The Proprietors' Book 
of Records, Mss., (hereafter cited as Housatonnoc No. 3 Proprie- 
tors' Records, Mss.), 24, 26, 28, 32, 33, 36, 57, etc. Similar ex- 
ample is Housatonic No. 1. The Proprietors' Book of Records for 
the Township No. 1 at Housatonnoc, Mss., (hereafter cited as 
Houstonnoe No. 1 Proprietors' Records, Mss.) 26, 31, etc. 


before a justice of peace. 51 The tenure of his office was 
not definitely fixed and usually lasted until another person 
was chosen by the propriety. 52 His duty was carefully 
defined by the several colonial laws, which were : to serve 
notices of the meetings to the members of the propriety; 
to record all acts and votes passed at all legal proprietors' 
meetings ; to enter all divisions or sale of land with surveys 
and boundaries ; to transact all the business of the propriety 
between meetings, unless otherwise stipulated, and to attend 
to the correspondence; and to represent the propriety at 
all occasions unless a special committee or agent is ap- 
pointed in advance in his place. Naturally, in the absence 
of the office of presidency in all proprieties, he was the 
busiest person and, although he received no fixed salary, 
his services were often rewarded with land grants or a 
pecuniary honorarium. 53 

si Massachusetts Act of 1726 (Mass. Acts and Resolves, II : 407- 
408); Connecticut Act of 1717 and 1723 (Conn. Col. Bee., VI: 25 
and 424). A special formula of oath was provided for in the last 
act mentioned. 

52 The Connecticut Act of October, 1721, declared that clerk is 
lawfully in office until another person is legally chosen, though he 
is not elected annually. Conn. Col. Bee., VI: 276. The Massachu- 
setts Act of 1774 decreed that clerk chosen by the propriety should 
continue that office notwithstanding the completion of the final 
division of the undivided lands in order to give certificate of land 
deeds. Mass. Acts and Besolves, V: 387-388. 

53 For example : Proprietors ' Book of Eecords for Upper Housa- 
tonnock, Mss., (hereafter cited as Upper Housatonnock Proprietors 
Records, Mss.), 36; Proprietors' Eecords of No. 9 or Murrayfield 
Mss., (hereafter cited as Murrayfield Proprietors' Records, Mss.) 
77. The proprietors' clerk of such large and powerful organiza 
tions as the Great Proprietors became rich by serving that office 
Dr. Sylvester Gardiner, treasurer and clerk of the Plymouth Com 
pany Proprietors at one time or another, is a typical example 
Records of Proprietors of Kennebec Purchase, Mss., II: 58, 81, 144 
215, 252, 260-267, 288, 350, etc. 


Next only to the clerk in importance were the treasurer 
who controlled the purse string of the propriety and the 
surveyor whose duty it was to survey all divisions of the 
common and undivided lands. The surveyor was usually 
assisted by chainmen, both of whom served under oath and 
were paid by the day; 54 the treasurer was assisted in his 
work by assessors and collectors who were also under oath. 
From time to time, agents and attorneys were appointed 
to promote, to protect, and to prosecute in court the pro- 
prietary interests; this was especially the case when the 
proprietors were a party to a law suit or when encroach- 
ment upon the proprietary lands was rampant. 55 Watch- 
men were often appointed, particularly in the early years, 
to guard the right of the common field. At every proprie- 
tors' meeting a moderator was elected to act as chairman 
of the proceedings; outside of the meetings, however, he 
seems to have had no authority or responsibility. 

Much of the business of any propriety was transacted 
and executed under the committee system. Most important 
of these was the standing committee of three to five mem- 
bers under some such name as "the committee to manage 
the prudential affairs of the proprietors. ' ' This committee, 
which was appointed in the majority of the New England 
proprieties, acted, between meetings, as a board of repre- 

54 The proprietors of Rochester, Mass., have the following in- 
teresting vote. After ordering that the chainmen should serve 
under oath, it continued: "But those chainmen who are of the De- 
nomination called Quakers, shall be only obliged to take a solemn 
engagement, instead of an oath to the faithful discharge of their 
said Office, Before one of his Majesties Justices of Peace, in order 
to Qualify them to act as Chainmen." Rochester Proprietors' Book 
of Records, Mss., II: 25. May 17, 1738. 

55 The Great Proprietors always maintained agents and attor- 
neys and they were almost always paid by land. The Masonian 
Proprietors, it has been already noted above, reserved in each grant 
two law lots to reward their two attorneys in advance. 


sentatives and passed upon all pending affairs in conjunc- 
tion with the clerk of the propriety. The committee to 
regulate the division of land or to lay out divisions existed 
almost universally, being appointed from time to time, and 
its members, cooperating with the surveyor and chainmen, 
had charge of the important work of dividing and allotting 
land ; they were all paid usually by the day. Other com- 
mittees were appointed for divers purposes, from time to 
time, to carry on work of minor routine. 56 


The membership in any propriety was definitely deter- 
mined by law or by proprietary votes; it was carefully 
limited to the proprietors of common and undivided lands, 
their heirs, assigns, or successors. 

In the first instance the proprietors became members of 
a propriety by virtue of being the original grantees under 
the colonial seal or the original purchasers from Indians 
through the approval of the respective colonial governments 
of a tract of land or township which they held in common. 57 
By the same patent or deed, their heirs, assigns, or succes- 
sors were given the same powers by right of inheritance. 
Thus in the later times the personnel of any propriety 
consisted of the heirs and assigns or the successors of the 

56 The committee created by the proprietors of Woodbury, Conn., 
from time to time, may be taken as typical. They had at one 
time or another the committees on the management of the pruden 
tial affairs of the proprietors, on encroachment, on fences, on high- 
ways and roads, on proprietary rights, on selling lands, on ex- 
changing lands, on divisions and lay out of land, on rate, on the 
prosecution of legal suits, on procuring ministers, on mills, etc. 

57 Sometimes the proprietary right was withheld from the original 
grantee when the latter neglected to pay the required charge to the 
committee of the General Court or to file a necessary bond when 
it was so required. 


earlier members. The Massachusetts Act of 1723 emphati- 
cally assigned the right of any deceased proprietor only to 
his heirs, even if there was no will provided for. 58 

While this was true in theory, the theory did not agree 
with the practice in many of the older towns. Through 
lack of record in some towns and from the fact that the 
town and proprietors were coterminous in earlier years, it 
was impossible to discover who were the original settlers 
or admitted proprietors or even the original grantees. 
In such cases the taxable inhabitants, either land-holders or 
house-holders, at a given time were admitted as proprie- 
tors. 59 Often a committee was appointed at the time of the 
definite organization of the proprietors to investigate, re- 
ceive claims, and determine the number of rightful pro- 
prietors. 60 Furthermore the proprietors themselves, in their 
legal proprietors' meetings, not infrequently added to their 

ss June 17, 1723. Mass. Acts and Besolves, II: 284-285. 

59 Mead, op. tit., 68-69. In Manchester, Mass., the body of pro- 
prietors was fixed by a town vote in 1695, ordering that "all such 
persons having any perticular Lott or Lotts farme or farms granted 
by ye towne of Salem or Manchester living in our towne of said 
Manchester before the year 1662 hath A Comon Eight ' ' and that 
"No one else shall have any proprietary or interest in said Comon 
Lands. " Early Records of the Town of Deer field, I: 62-63. 
In Hartford, Conn., the number of proprietors was decided to be 
95 in 1639, being "legal inhabitants" who have borne town 
charges, not necessarily "original purchasers" or "first settlers." 
Love, Colonial History of Hartford, 119-120, quoting Town Records 
(I: 21-24). In New London, Conn., such persons as were land- 
holders in 1685 when the town patent was granted were considered 
by the Act of 1704. Caulkins, History of New London, 263. In 
Guilford, Conn., the town in 1697 fixed the body of proprietors as 
those that were settled planters in 1686. Steiner, History of the 
Plantation of Menunkoyuck and of the original Town of Guilford, 
Connecticut, 174. 

eo in Enfield, Conn., (originally granted by Massachusetts), for 
example, upon separation from the town and the definite organiza- 
tion of the proprietors in 1711, a Committee was appointed "to 


members. Thus the original proprietors of Providence, R. 
I., voted in the "Second Comers" and later the "Quarter 
Rights Men" to enjoy their privileges. 61 The proprietors 
of Colchester, Conn., voted to add some twenty-four names 
to the list of proprietors in 1713. ° 2 In Waterbury, Conn., 
the proprietary rights were conferred upon "young men 
that desire to settell in ye town ' ' and came to be known as 
the "Bachelor Proprietors" in contradistinction from the 
original or "Grand Proprietors." 03 In Ipswich, Mass., 
the admitted proprietors were known as the "New Com- 
moners" while the original proprietors called themselves 
the ' ' Old Commoners. ' ' 64 Sometimes, the payment of a 

examine the Committee Book of Grants in order to ye finding out 
who are the Commoners of Enfield." The Committee reported 55 
names as authentic Commoners and the proprietors voted that ' ' This 
list shall pass as a just list of Commoners, except any person 
agrieved & make his application to the proprietors." New members 
were admitted from time to time. Allen, History of En-field, I: 
{Commoners' Boole), 682, 683-684; 687, 688, 697, 734, 737, etc. 
A similar committee appointed in 1734 in Wells, Maine, reported 
and the proprietors approved that every person having a house and 
land in the town should be a proprietor. Bourne, History of Wells, 
656, quoting the proprietors' records. In Watertown, Mass., when 
the proprietors were legally organized in 1714, a committee was ap- 
pointed to determine who were the proprietors. Watertown Pro- 
prietors' Records, I: 150, 151. Similarly the list of proprietors in 
Dorchester, Mass., was determined in 1713. Massachusetts Ar- 
chives, Mss., XLV: 418-425. 

6i The former enjoyed the full rights, while the latter were given 
"a free grant of 25 acres of land apiece with right of commoning 
according to the said proportion of land." Dorr. op. cit., 32-33, 
90, 91. Providence Town Votes, III: 20. 

62 Mead, op. cit., 69, foot note 2. 

63 Proprietors' Records of the Town of Waterbury, Connecticut, 
1677-1761 (hereafter cited as Waterbury Proprietors' Records), 
44//. The Bachelor Proprietors did not have any voice, however, 
in granting land. 

64 Ipswich Proprietors' Records, in Essex Institute Historical Col- 
lections, IiVIII: 151-152. 


certain sum into the proprietary treasury was a condition 
upon which new members were admitted. 65 At times, as 
a result of controversy between proprietors and non-pro- 
prietors, the proprietors often compromised their exclusive 
contention by admitting a certain number of inhabitants 
who held land at the time. 66 Moreover, the proprietary 
rights were purchasable and many became proprietors by 
virtue of purchasing the original proprietary right. This 
was more universally the practice among the speculative 
proprietors of the eighteenth century. 67 In any of these 
various cases, the admitted proprietors were given full pro- 
prietary right unless otherwise so stipulated, and enjoyed 
all the privileges and powers of the original proprietors. 

Together with the power of thus admitting new members, 
the proprietors also possessed the power of excluding mem- 
bers from the propriety. The most common and universal 
case was that in connection with delinquency. The delin- 
quent proprietor's rights, when he neglected to contribute 
to the necessary expenses of the propriety or refused to 
fulfill the conditions of grant, were sold off in accordance 
with the law and the purchaser was admitted in his place 
with full right. These cases were more numerous during 
the eighteenth century when the spirit of speculation domi- 
nated the proprietary transactions. 68 Sometimes the break- 

8 5 In Egremont, Mass., the proprietors granted the proprietary 
right for the payment of money, as 30s, £1-2-6, £1-5-0, etc. Pro- 
prietors' Eecords of Egremont, 1757-1862, Mss., 9-10, 11, etc. 
The New Marlborough (Massachusetts No. 2 in Berkshire County) 
proprietors followed a similar step, however upon condition that 
they should settle in the township. £15, £17-4-0, £16, £21, etc., 
were paid and persons were admitted accordingly. Proprietors' 
Eecords of New Marlborough, 1737-1790, Mss. (hereafter cited as 
New Marlborough Proprietors' Eecords, Mss.), 21. 

es See below Chapter VII. 

er See below 210jf. 

es See below Chapter VII. 


ing of a proprietary covenant or an action repugnant to the 
interest of the propriety resulted in expulsion of the victim. 
These occurred, however, very rarely. 

Such being the status of membership, the New England 
propriety early became an exclusive organization in at least 
two important senses. In the first place it only included 
the legally created or admitted proprietors, excluding the 
bulk of town population ; the contrast in this respect became 
clearer as the town population increased. Then there was 
a tendency among the proprietors themselves to limit their 
membership at an early date, leaving it relatively a small 
body and very likely to be dominated by narrow and selfish 
traditions. This was particularly true of the proprieties 
which were founded before the passage of general laws 
defining the proprietary rights. In Dorchester, Mass., for 
example, no inhabitant could become a proprietor after 
Jan. 18, 1635, when it was ordered that "all the home lots 
within Dorchester Plantation which have been granted be- 
fore this present day shall have right to be commoners and 
no other lots that are granted hereafter to be commoners : 
also that two shall not common for one home lot. ' ' 69 In 
Cambridge, Mass., the proprietors agreed in 1664 "that no 
more proprietors shall be allowed without a unanimous con- 
sent. " 70 In Boston, Mass., it was voted by the freemen in 
1646 "that all whom the townsmen had admitted to be in- 
habitants should have equal right of commonage, but that 
those who should thereafter be admitted inhabitants should 
have no right of commonage unless they hire it. ' ' 71 Simi- 
lar orders were passed in Watertown, Mass., in 1635 72 and 
in Cohasset, Mass., in 1649. 73 The Sowams proprietors 

69 Dorchester Town Records, 1632-1691, 14; McLear, op. cit., 102 

to Cambridge Proprietors' Records, 144. 

""■Boston Town Records, II: 88. May, 18, 1646. 

72 Watertown Records, I: 2. Nov. 30, 1635. 


came to an agreement in 1660 "that none of us shall at 
anytime Let or sell any of said lands to any stranger that is 
not allready a proprietor with us without the Joynt Con- 
sent of us all. " 74 In many towns the proprietors ' ' cove- 
nanted" themselves on a similar principle at the time of 
their creation. 75 In other words, the power of admitting 
new members was practiced with caution and, with a few 
exceptions, the number of proprietary shares or rights re- 
mained relatively the same throughout the life of a pro- 
priety, being however divided into smaller fractions with 
the increase of descendants. 

In the townships where the area was large or where 
the geographical divisions formed a natural barrier for 
united action, the proprietors were often organized into two 
or more independent groups for the sake of convenience, 
each holding separate meetings and keeping a separate 
record. A typical example is the division of the proprie- 
tors in Springfield, Mass., where, in 1714, fifteen years after 
the original organization of the proprietors, the township 
was divided into two "Commons" and henceforward the 
proprietors of the "Inward Commons" and the "Outward 
Commons ' ' met separately and kept separate records. 76 At 
Saybrook, Conn., the township was divided into three 

73 Cohasset Town Records, 7. March 1, 1649. 

74 Bicknell, Sowams, 40, quoting the agreement of Dec. 25, 1660, 
from the proprietors' records. 

75 See for example: Proprietors' Kecords of Hadley, Mss., 246- 
251 ; Cothren, History of Ancient Woodbury, 1 : 39-41, quoting pro- 
prietors ' records; Williamson, History of the City of Belfast in the 
State of Maine, I: 64; Tucker, History of Hartford, Vermont, 
42-43; Chase, History of Chester, New Hampshire, 4; Bicknell, 
Sowams, 34, 35, 40, 41-42. 

76 See the respective records : Proprietors ' Records of the Inward 
Commons of Springfield, 1713-1813, Mss., 3 Volumes, and Proprie- 
tors' Records of the Outward Commons of Springfield, 1699-1799, 
2 volumes, Mss. 


quarters and the proprietors were organized into three re- 
spective groups: the Oyster River Quarter, the Polapauge 
Quarter, and the East River Quarter. 77 The proprietors 
were more often divided into several groups according to 
the several divisions of commons and meadows. 78 In this 
case, however, they kept one record which covered all. 

As a result there were in nearly every New England town 
two general classes of inhabitants, as well as other minor 
distinctions. The first group was the proprietors, who con- 
stituted a landed class, more or less conservative in senti- 
ment. The other group was the non-proprietors and in- 
cluded among them freemen of the Colony, admitted in- 
habitants but non-freemen, and transients. By the second 
decade of the eighteenth century such distinction was prac- 
tically complete and the friction between the two bodies 
was not infrequently due to such an undemocratic division 
in the life of a small town. 79 


One of the outstanding powers of the proprietors, as it 
has been already noted, 80 was the exclusive power to deal, 
both in divisions and sales, with the common and undivided 

77 SaybrooTc Land Records, 1 : 93, 94. 

78 As in Hadley, Mass., where there were several divisions ac- 
cording to the different divisions of land, such as ' ' Inner Commons, ' ' 
"Field of Hawkanum," "Fort Meadow," etc. Proprietors' Kec- 
ords of Hadley, Mss., 251, 384, 388, et passim. At Salem, Mass., 
there were ten such divisions as early as 1640. Adams, Village Com- 
munities of Cape Anne and Salem, 37//. See also Andrews, River 
Towns of Connecticut, 68; McLear, op. cit., 2,1 ff. 

79 See below Chapter V, ' ' The Controversies of the Town Pro- 
prietors. ' ' 

80 We have already seen that this power was exercised by the town 
or proprietors in the town meetings in the earlier years when there 
was very little, if any at all, distinction between the two bodies. 
See above 50-52. 


lands. This privilege, which forms the raison d'etre of all 
proprieties, was granted to them by the patent or charters 
of the land grant. But it became confused with the general 
town privileges and it was necessary for the respective 
Colonies to define the power. In Massachusetts that power 
was legally guaranteed to the proprietors by the Act of 
1692. 81 Among other things it provided that "the pro- 
prietors of the undivided and common lands within each 
town and precincts in this province, where same have been 
heretofore stated, each one's proportion being known, shall 
and hereby impowered to order, improve or divide in such 
way and manner as shall be concluded and agreed upon by 
the major part of the interested . . . And the proprietors 
of all undivided common lands not stated and proportioned 
as aforesaid, shall and hereby impowered to manage, im- 
prove, divide or dispose of the same as hath been or shall 
be concluded and agreed on by the major part of such pro- 
prietors." The subsequent Acts of 1698 and 1713 recog- 
nized this point emphatically. In 1698 it was decreed that 
the major part of the proprietors in any general field is em- 
powered to lay down and dissolve the general field at 
pleasure and that such land shall be divided and improved 
by the major vote upon six months notice to all the pro- 
prietors. 82 The Act of 1713 added that, upon legalizing the 
proprietors' meetings, the proprietors at their meetings 
shall have the sole right "to pass order for managing, im- 
proving, and dividing such common lands not before stated 
and divided. " 83 In other words, these laws legalized the 
custom which was already being practiced. 

In Rhode Island the recognition of the exclusive right 
of proprietors to deal with the common and undivided 
lands preceded that of Massachusetts by ten years. The 

si Nov. 16, 1692. Mass. Acts and Resolves, I: 64-68. 
82 June 21, 1698. Section 5. Ibid., I: 333-335. 
88 March 25, 1713. Ibid., I: 704. 


Act of 1682 confirmed to the proprietors, their heirs and 
assigns forever, "their several and representative rights 
and interests" to all common and undivided lands "by- 
virtue of any such purchase or purchases" and empowered 
the proprietors alone to manage and divide all remaining 
common and undivided lands. 84 In Connecticut the similar 
rights were confirmed to the proprietors alone by the Act 
of 1717. 85 The Act of 1723 reiterated the same principle 
in detail, confirming exclusively to the proprietors the ' ' an- 
cient rights" of regulating, improving, managing, and di- 
viding the common and undivided lands by the major votes 
according to their interest in the common lands "in such 
manner and proportion as they shall see good" and order- 
ing that no new inhabitant can procure such a right without 
the proprietors' general consent or grant. 86 Likewise the 
New Hampshire Act of 1719 declared that "the proprietors 
of the common and undivided lands, when the same have 
been heretofore stated, shall be and hereby are empowered 
to order, improve, or divide in such way and manner as 
shall be concluded and agreed upon by the major part of 
such proprietors. " 87 

The proprietary rights, both in the divided and undi- 
vided lands, or proprietary possessions might be freely sold 
or transferred. 88 In the earlier years, however, such a free- 

s* Dorr, op. cit., 107-109. May 3, 1682, 
ss Conn. Col. Bee, VI : 25. 

86 May 9, 1723. Ibid., VI: 394-397. The preamble pointed out 
how the town exercised that right in the earlier years by the con- 
sent of the proprietors. At the same time, it called attention to 
the fact that ' ' the properties and estates ' ' were confirmed by ' ' deeds 
and patents" to the proprietors by the Colony. It thus legallized 
the customary practice of the proprietors during the earlier years. 

87 New Hampshire Laws, 230-237 (5 Geo. I, C. 87, s. 3) 

88 There is no specific law on this subject. The power to alienate 
seems to have emanated from the general laws which recognized the 
exclusive proprietary powers. In Connecticut, for example, a trans- 


dom was often restricted, particularly when the town had 
jurisdiction over the land. This was in harmony with the 
Puritan restriction over f reemanship and it emanated from 
the desire to prevent undesirable persons from becoming 
landholders and possible inhabitants of the town. In Con- 
necticut a law of 1659 specifically provided that no person 
should sell his land until he had first offered it to the town 
in which the land lay and the town had refused to purchase 
it. 89 The General Court of Massachusetts did once raise 
the question whether the towns could restrain individuals 
from selling their own lands or houses, but no action is 
recorded and the subject was left to the towns. Accord- 
ingly the town in Massachusetts and Connecticut controlled 
and restricted even the proprietary alienation of land in 
the early times, 90 and proprietors in many towns were not 
permitted to dispose of their land at will. The need for 
such regulations in the later years was not felt as at first 
and the restriction became either obsolete or eventually dis- 
regarded. In the eighteenth century, after the proprietors 
took charge of their common and undivided lands and their 
exclusive power over land was legally recognized, the free- 
dom of alienation of proprietary right and divided lands 
was universally recognized. 91 

In order to assure their exclusive power over the com- 
mon and undivided lands and to enable them to carry on 
the necessary work for the betterment of their interests, 

action made under the Act of 1723 was affirmed in 1729. Conn. Col. 
Bee, VII: 243. 

8 9 Osgood, op. cit., 1 : 351 ; Mead, op. cit., 78 ; Egleston, 02?. cit., 40. 

»o See Mead, op. cit., 78-79, and Egleston, op. cit., 40^41, for ex- 

9i One rare case is the proprietors of Hopkinton, N. H., where 
no proprietor had the liberty to sell his lots or property right with- 
out leave obtained first from the propriety. This vote was dissented 
to by the Massachusetts General Court. Lord, Life and Times in 
Hopkinton, 15, 17. 


the proprietors were possessed of the necessary corporate 
powers. Such were the power to levy taxes, to sue and to 
be sued, to make by-laws and orders, and to annex penalties. 
The right of inheriting all proprietary rights, thereby per- 
petuating the proprietary interests, lay at the basis of all 
corporate powers and it solidified the proprietary right 
against the non-proprietors. 

The power to raise money by taxation, to be assessed pro- 
portionately upon several proprietary rights, was granted 
to the proprietors for the purpose of improving or settling 
their lands and defraying the incidental expenses of the 
propriety. Instead of levying taxes, the practice was also 
universal for the propriety to sell land for the same pur- 
pose. 92 In either case it was done in the legally warned 
proprietors' meeting or its adjourned meeting by the major 
vote of the proprietors, the warrant or notices calling the 
meeting always stating that fact in advance. This power, 
as in the case of proprietors' meetings, had been practiced 
from an early date while the laws confirmed and legalized 
the practice. 

In the Massachusetts Bay Province several attempts were 
made prior to 1726 to confirm to the proprietors the power 
of taxation but all failed. 83 Beginning with the year 1726, 
however, a series of acts was passed granting that power to 
the proprietors. The Act of 1726 empowered the proprie- 

92 In some cases the application was made by the proprietors to 
the General Court to authorize them to sell a certain tract of land 
for that purpose. This was generally granted. In the case of the 
Indian proprietors, as in Massachusetts, they were always required 
to do so and the General Court always granted their request, some- 
times appointing a committee to aid them so that they would not be- 
come victims of fraudulent transactions. See for example, Mass. 
Acts and Resolves, XI: 311, 317, 360, 449, 452, 547, 566, 602; XII: 
93, 150, 326, 336, 514; XIII: 62, 96, 133, 213, 249, 534, etc. 

03 Mass. House Journal, II (Ford Edition) : 250, 257, 261, 285, 
287, etc. 


tors to raise money for the prosecution of law suits in- 
volving the propriety; 94 the general Act of 1741 confirmed 
the same power to the proprietors in general terms, de- 
claring that the proprietors at their legally warned meet- 
ings, by the major vote, are empowered "to raise tax or 
sum of money for the necessity of the common field" ; 95 and 
the Act of 1753, in regulating the proprietors' meetings, 
gave the proprietors the right to levy taxes, proportionate 
to right, "for bringing forward and completing the settle- 
ment of such common lands, and for the prosecution or 
defending any lawsuits for or against such proprietors, and 
for carrying on and managing any other affairs for the 
common good of such proprieties. ' ' 96 Under these several 
laws the offices of treasurer, assessor, and collector were also 
legalized and they were required to serve under oath. In 
the Plymouth Colony the laws of 1662 and 1665 empowered 
proprietors to raise money, 97 while the Connecticut Act of 
1727 confirmed that power to them, emphasizing that it 
should be done "by the major votes." 98 In Rhode Island 
and New Hampshire a similar power was derived from the 
general laws which empowered the proprietors to manage 
and divide their common and undivided lands. 

The power of taxation, however, was a dangerous as well 
as necessary power. It was not easy to apply it in prac- 
tice in many of the New England proprieties and to do so 
often stirred up controversies. This was particularly 
true among the speculative proprietors of the eighteenth 
century whose main interest was in the profit of land spec- 
ulation and who were mostly absentees. Delinquency was 
the natural result and it became one of the grave problems 

94 Dec. 31, 1726. Mass. Acts and Resolves, II: 407-408. 

95 Aug. 8, 1741. Ibid., II: 1066. 

96 June 19, 1753. Ibid., Ill: 669-670. 

97 Plym. Col. Bee, Laws, 142 and 211. 

»8 October, 1727. Conn. Col. Bee, VII: 137-138. 


which many proprieties had to face and upon which the 
General Courts were called upon to legislate. Generally- 
speaking, the proprietors were able successfully to en- 
force their power as they were backed by the General 
Court and its statutory provisions, by adopting the drastic 
measure of selling all delinquents' lands and rights." 

In as much as the proprietary existence was bound to 
the land transactions and the land was the source of con- 
stant law suits in the New England Colonies, the proprie- 
tary power to sue and to be sued was an important cor- 
porate power both as a weapon of self defense on the part 
of the proprietors and as a means of redress on the part 
of the non-proprietors. In Massachusetts it was confirmed 
by the Act of 1694, by which the proprietors were em- 
powered to ' ' sue, commence, and prosecute any suits or ac- 
tions in any court proper to try the same, either by them- 
selves or their agents. ' ' 10 ° This was reiterated in 1726 
when it was further added that writs should be served 
thirty days before the trial. 101 Similar laws were enacted 
in the other New England Colonies, thereby applying the 
legal procedure to the final determination of land dis- 
putes. 102 It was through this power to sue that many of 
the proprieties maintained their title to disputed lands 
which is very characteristic of all colonial grants; on the 
other hand, it proved to be a source of undue domineering 
power in some proprieties. 103 

99 The subject of delinquency will be dealt with in full elsewhere. 
See below, 224-229. 

100 Mass. Acts and Resolves, I: 182. Oct. 25, 1694. 
ioi Ibid., II: 407-408. Dec. 31, 1726. 

102 New Hampshire Laws, 582-591 (4 Geo. I, C. 79) ; Connecticut 

Act of 1734 entitled "An act for the better enabling of 

proprietors in common and undivided lands to maintain, recover, 
and defend their grants ..." 

1 03 See below Chapter V, "The Controversies of the Town Pro- 
prietors. ' ' 


The statutory authority of the proprietors in making by- 
laws or orders of their own seems to have been limited to 
the Massachusetts Bay Province. That power was given to 
the proprietors by an Act of 1727. By the same Act the 
proprietors were empowered to annex penalties in enforc- 
ing their votes and orders. In practice similar power was 
exercised by the proprietors of the other New England Col- 
onies. In all such cases the power was derived from the 
general laws already referred to, giving proprietors the 
right to divide and manage their common and undivided 

Under these several laws, then, the proprietors were pos- 
sessed of practically all the important corporate powers 
and it was through the strength of such a legal backing 
that they accomplished their task of transferring the land 
titles from group ownership to individual ownership. 


In the early years there were no proprietors' records as 
such. The proprietors seem to have cared very little about 
their records and the complete record of their proceedings 
was kept in very few towns. In some cases a few lines 
were entered in the town records, intermingled among the 
proceedings of the town. In other words, during the 
period when the town and the proprietors were cotermi- 
nous, there was no need of separate records and what the 
town or proprietors voted in the town meetings were re- 
corded as town votes and were kept as such in the town 
records. If the proprietors attempted to keep any record 
at all, it was very meagre. 

When, however, the proprietors were organized separately 
and entered upon an independent career, they began to 
see the value of keeping their own records. Thus, the 
separate records of the majority of the proprietors, even 


if they were founded during the second quarter of the 
seventeenth century, do not begin until the close of the 
century. After the Acts of 1698 and 1713 in Massachu- 
setts, when proprietors were legally authorized to organize 
themselves, the proprietors' records seem to have been kept 
almost universally where there was an organization. As 
we have seen already, the proprietors' clerk was ordered 
to keep the minutes of all proprietary meetings, of pro- 
prietary votes, and land divisions. The Massachusetts 
Acts of 1774 required, not only the records of the meetings 
and the proprietors' transactions, but also of the lands 
"after they have made a full and complete division of 
their land lying common and undivided. ' ' It further em- 
powered the proprietors' clerk to recover all proprietary 
records and to issue attested copies of deeds as they are 
recorded in the proprietors' records. In the other New 
England Colonies, the laws legalizing the office of proprie- 
tors' clerk also required the records to be kept by him. 
Sometimes specific cases were dealt with by individual legis- 
lations. Thus, in Connecticut, soon after the confirmation 
of New Fairfield in 1736, the General Court passed an act 
empowering the clerk to record all "deeds, mortgages and 
other instruments as the town clerks have in their govern- 
ment." 104 

The records thus kept by the proprietors' clerk took 
two forms: (1) the minutes of meetings and (2) the book 
of grants. Generally speaking, the minutes of meetings 
and proprietary votes are very brief and often very scanty, 
while the book of grants constitute the bulk of proprietors ' 
records everywhere. In the latter are to be found detailed 
descriptions of all proprietary land grants, together with 
the surveyor's reports. 

The importance of the proprietors' records are self evi- 

104 Mass. Acts and Besolves, V: 387. 


dent. In the New England proprieties, as we have already 
seen, land was divided among proprietors or granted to 
others by a mere vote at any legally warned proprietors' 
meetings, and surveying and drawing of lots completed the 
transaction. The only evidence of this important transac- 
tion was the proprietors' records in which were the proprie- 
tary votes on the division and the careful descriptions of 
lots as they were submitted by the surveyor. In other 
words, the only means by which any proprietors' property 
could be certified as authentic was through the proprietors ' 

It is true that most of the land deeds were recorded at 
the county registry. But the titles to land always run 
directly from the proprietors' records, not from the regis- 
try. This was the interpretation which the courts later 
gave in connection with innumerable legal cases involving 
these land transactions. Thus, in 1807, the Massachusetts 
superior court ruled that 105 

"all the titles, which have been derived from the proprietors of 
townships, have nothing better to depend upon than a vote recorded 
in the proprietors' books; and when a possession was taken in 
confirmity to the vote, and transmitted by the grantee to his heirs 
or assigns, titles so acquired have been respected and maintained in 
our courts of law. " 

In 1813, it maintained that the proprietors' records and 
certificates therefrom constitute the chief evidence in any 
land transactions. 106 Two years later it declared that the 
proprietors' vote recorded in the proprietors' book is the 
sufficient proof of land division even if there is no deed 
therefor. 107 In 1851, in the case of the Inhabitants of 

los Adam vs. Frothingham, 3 Massachusetts, 360. (1807) 

106 Codman et all vs. Winslow, 10 Massachusetts, 146. (1813) 

107 Inhabitants of Springfield vs. Miller, 12 Massachusetts, 415. 


Gloucester v. Gaff rey, the court held that ' ' an ancient vote 
of proprietors of common lands, granting the same, was 
prima facie evidence of title." 108 The New Hampshire 
superior court also maintained similar opinions on the value 
of the proprietors' records. 109 

Such being the value of the proprietors' records, the 
clerk was under oath during his tenure of office, and treach- 
erous clerks were often dismissed from the office. For ex- 
ample, the proprietors' clerk of Upper Housatonic was 
dismissed from the office in 1749 upon a charge of fraudu- 
lent actions and the proprietors declared "null and void 
all the votes divisions & transactions" which were recorded 
by the said dismissed clerk to that date. 110 At Athol, Mass., 
a certain Joseph Lord was the proprietors' clerk and 
treasurer for twenty years, but he absconded with all pro- 
prietary records in 1760 when another clerk was elected 
in his place. The proprietors then petitioned the General 
Court for relief, stating that "the petitioners are thus de- 
prived of their records, and those who held their several 
possessions or original proprietors or have purchased the 
lands of delinquent proprietors left without their proper 
and needful proofs, and are in the utmost danger of run- 
ning into total confusion. " The new clerk accordingly was 
authorized to start a new record from all the evidences and 

los 8 Allen, 11. 

109 See for example : Colburn vs. Ellenwood, 4 New Hampshire, 
99; Atkinson vs. Bemis, 11 New Hampshire, 44. In the latter case, 
a copy of proprietors' records from their book was declared to be 
prima facie evidence of title against any claimants or trespessers. 
For similar opinions see also: Green vs. Putnam, 8 Cushing, 21; 
Baker et al vs. Falls, 16 Massachusetts, 497. 

no It was charged that the proprietors ' clerk denied and debarred 
several of the proprietors from their claims by not recording the 
same in the record books. Upper Housatonnock Proprietors' Rec- 
ords, Mss., 33, 34. 


memory of the time of Lord, which record was to be con- 
firmed by the major vote of the proprietors. 111 

in Mods. Acts and Besolves, IV: 860-863; XVI: 597-598. 
Massachusetts Archives, Mss., CXVII: 578-580; CXVIII: 95-97, 



The activities of the town proprietors may be conven- 
iently divided into three main groups, namely, (1) the 
settlement of townships, (2) the division of land, and (3) 
the practice of the common field system. 


In the settlement of townships the proprietors acted in 
three capacities, as builders, as settlers, and as capitalists. 
As builders of towns the proprietors were responsible for 
the general plan of the township or village. Next only to 
the surveying and the division of lots according to shares, 
the very first subject which was taken up in the first pro- 
prietors' meeting was usually the general plan of the town 
— the main highways and roads, the town center or common 
with burying ground, the streets, the arrangement of home 
lots, the farms, and the pastures. Committees were ap- 
pointed for the respective works and surveyors executed 
the plan by the help of paid chainmen and assistants. 1 
Whatever the expenses the work required the proprietors 
liberally voted at their meetings. 

1 For example, the committee to lay out town plot at Norfolk, 
Conn., was paid 3s 6d a day. Norfolk Proprietors' Records, 1754- 
1856, Mss. (hereafter cited as Norfolk Proprietors' Records, Mss.), 
B: 14. At Savoy, Mass., a similar committee received 2s lOd a day. 
Savoy, Massachusetts, Proprietors' Records, 1771-1791, Mss., (here- 
after cited as Savoy Proprietors' Records, Mss.), 11. 



The first vital necessity in building a township on the 
frontier was provision for the means of communication 
with the older and more settled districts. When we re- 
member that the majority of townships were created on 
the frontier, we realize that the problem of constructing 
highways was important as well as difficult and expensive 
project. In the old towns this was under the charge of 
the town. But in the newer towns on the frontier, the 
proprietors were the only responsible body to execute the 
work for the incorporation of the town came much later. 
Thus the proprietors of many towns were willing to under- 
go the troubles and expenses so as to provide the settlers 
with ample means of communication with their home towns. 
The proprietors of Lebanon, N. H., cooperating with the 
proprietors of Lyme, Hanover, and Norwich, built in 1761- 
1763 a highway connecting Charlestown on the south and 
Norwich on the north. 2 The proprietors of Keene, N. H., 
or Upper Ashuelot, constructed a highway through Swanzy 
or Lower Ashuelot to Townshend in Massachusetts. 3 The 
proprietors of Hartwood in western Massachusetts built a 
highway connecting it with Becket (No. 4) and Pittsfield 
(Boston No. 3), 4 while the proprietors of Upper Housa- 
tonic (Great Barrington) built one from Stockbridge to 
Suffield. 5 The proprietors of Rindge, N. H., completed a 

2 Downs, History of Lebanon, 52, quoting proprietors ' records. 

s Proprietors ' Records of Upper Ashuelot, 1734-1786, Mss. (here- 
after cited as Keene Proprietors' Records, Mss.), for May 1, 1735, 
and June 30, 1737. 

4 Proprietors ' Book of Records for the Township of Hartwood, 
1763-1788, Mss. (hereafter cited as Hartwood Proprietors' Records, 
Mss.), 10, 25, 30. 12 shillings were raised on every share to de- 
fray the expenses. Ibid., 10. 

5 Upper Housatonnock Proprietors Records, Mss., 40. For 
Lower Housatonic, see Proprietors' Records of Lower Housatonnock, 
1722-1857, Mss. (hereafter cited as Lower Housatonnock Proprie- 
tors' Records, Mss.), I: 36, 61. 


highway to Ashburnham and New Ipswich in 1760. 6 Not 
only did they build highways, but they also took care of 
them. This they did by appointing a committee "to keep 
in repair the highways and roads. ' ' 7 When the building 
of highways took in part of any private property, the pro- 
prietors leniently voted lands in exchange therefor. 8 Like- 
wise the streets and road within the township were planned 

6 Stearns, History of the Town of Bindge, New Hampshire, 1736- 
1874 (hereafter cited as Stearns, History of Bindge), 57-58, 69-70. 
(hereafter cited as Stearns, History of Ashburnham), 66-67; Dono- 
See also Stearns, History of Ashburnham, Massachusetts, 1734-1880 
(hereafter cited as Stearns, History of Ashburnham), 66-67; Dono- 
van and Woodward, History of the Town of Lyndeborough, New 
Hampshire, 1735-1905 (hereafter cited as Donovan and Woodward, 
History of Lyndeborough, 2>2ff. 

The proprietors of Housatonic No. 1 built seven highways from 
the township. Housatonnoc No. 1 Proprietors' Eecords, Mss., 79, 
80, 81. At Saybrook, Conn., two highways were built by the pro- 
prietors "to remain for ye benefit of ye publiek. " Saybrook Pro- 
prietors' Records, Mss., 102; also 137, 142, 171, 179. For the de- 
scription of highways built by the proprietors, see Proprietors' 
Records of Egremont, 1757-1863, Mss., (hereafter cited as Egre- 
mont Proprietors' Records, Mss.), 34-36; New Marlborough Pro- 
prietors' Records, Mss., 70-73, 85. 

i For example, see Norfolk, Conn. Norfolk Proprietor 's Records, 
Mss., B: 11, 20-29-31. The proprietors paid for repair work at 
the rate of 2s a day. Ibid., 15. Hartwood Proprietors' Records, 
Mss., 34, 35. The Keene proprietors had a standing committee "to 
take care and mend them." Keene Proprietors' Records, Mss., for 
Oct. 2, 1736. Narraganset No. 1 voted money for the repair of 
highways from time to time. Records of the Proprietors of Narra- 
ganset Township No. 1, now the Town of Buxton, YorJc County, 
Maine, 1733-1811 (hereafter cited as Narragansett No. 1 Proprie- 
tors' Records) 160, 163, etc. 

8 Records of the Proprietors of the Two-Mile Section or Potaconk 
Lands of the Town of Saybrook, now included in the Town of 
Chester, Mss. (hereafter cited as Chester Proprietors' Records, 
Mss.), 28. Housatonic No. 3 granted equivalent for highways more 
than once. Proprietors' Book of Records, Mss., 119-123, 134-136. 


by the proprietors prior to the general division so that 
home lots and pastures could be parcelled out in due con- 
venience. In these works the proprietors not only paved 
the way for the settlement of townships but also contributed 
much toward the general welfare of the respective colonies. 

Next to the general plan of the towns, the proprietors, as 
settlers, personally took part in the actual development of 
the township of which they were the grantees. This was 
more true in the seventeenth century when the proprietors 
were, in the majority of cases, resident proprietors, while 
in the eighteenth century they became, with the increase of 
absenteeism, important as the capitalist class. Cooperating 
with the other inhabitants of the town, the settler-proprie- 
tors were responsible for everything that the founding of 
a town required, from the building of a home to the or- 
ganization of the town and the provision for the public 
worship of God. In fact, their activities involved practi- 
cally everything that is to be discussed in the remaining 
pages of this chapter. 9 

As capitalists the proprietors provided for the economic 
beginnings of the town's life. This was a vital necessity 
second only to the means of communication with the civi- 
lized world. Among these the more important were grist 
mills for the subsistence of settlers and saw mills for the 
building of their shelters. The mills, indeed, constituted 
an important economic factor in the town life during the 
colonial days and the location of the mill is one of the 
historic places in many New England towns. 

The grant of townships by the general court in different 
colonies always included the benefit of streams and thus 
arose a curious custom of " water rights" which the pro- 
prietors invariably claimed. These water rights the pro- 

s For the activities of the settler-proprietors of the seventeenth 
century, see McLear, op. cit., Chapter IV, passim; Osgood, op. cit., 
I: 436j^; Andrews, River Towns of Connecticut, 68-71. 


prietors freely granted to themselves or to others with the 
specific purpose of building mills. Great Barrington (Up- 
per Housatonic), Mass., offers the best example in this 
connection. On Sept. 5, 1749, the proprietors voted 

"That all the Streams of water belonging to the Propriety of 
Upper Housatonock and within said Township proper & convenient 
for erecting mills with a suitable Quality of land adjoining to said 
Streams, be sequestered to the use & benefit of the Propriety. ' ' 

and in the following December they granted to certain 
John Williams "the Privilege on the Williams River" for 
the purpose of erecting a saw mill and a grist mill, pro- 
vided a mill be erected within one year. 10 The proprietors 
of Union, Conn., granted the water right to a James 
Armour "for his benefit in case it be no damage to the 
public or any private person. ' ' n This right of the stream 
was variously called, as the "water right," the "benefit of 
streams," the "right on the stream," the "privilege of the 
stream," the "Liberty and Privilege of Stream," etc. In 
granting such right the proprietors also controlled the 
location of mills, which they designated as "mill place." 
Together with the water right, the proprietors, in order 
to encourage the building of mills, always granted a neces- 
sary tract of land and often gratuity of money. Moreover, 
for the proper execution of the promise the proprietors 
invariably fixed a certain period of time within which the 
mill must be built; the land and money were forfeited 
upon breach of promise within the required period. Very 
often the proprietors' committee supervised the work of 
actual construction. A few examples will illustrate the 
situation. The proprietors of Housatonic No. 3 voted, in 

i° Upper Housatonnock Proprietors ' Records, Mss., 33, 36. 

I 1 Records of the Original Proprietors of the Town of Union, 
Connecticut, Mss. (hereafter cited as Union Proprietors' Records, 
M»* 209. 


1752, to grant 80 acres of land and £20 of gratuity to 
John Harwood, in return for which the latter agreed to 
build a grist mill within one year. 12 The proprietors of 
Hadham, Conn., entered into an agreement with Joseph 
Rogers of New London, in which the proprietors agreed 
to give him a mill land and the right on the stream and 
the latter agreed to forfeit all in addition to the payment 
of £100 damage if he failed to complete a mill. 13 At Keene, 
N. H., the proprietors voted to give 100 acres of land and 
£25 to any one who will build a saw mill within one year 
and provide the proprietors with board and slitwood at a 
certain rate. 14 The proprietors of Narragansett No. 1, of 
Hartwood, and of New Milford also voted for the building 
of similar mills. 15 The New Roxbury proprietors offered 
still more elaborate encouragements for the building of a 
corn mill: (1) "benefit of streams"; (2) 15-acres home 
lot, with a proprietary right, together with 15 acres of 
upland and 30 acres of meadow; (3) 10-acres home lot and 
100 acres of upland for the miller's son; (4) 20 acres more 

12 Housatonnoc No. 3 Proprietors ' Eecords, Mss., 56. 

1 3 Connecticut Archives, Towns and Lands, Mss., II: 89. The 
mill was not built and a law suit ensued in which the proprietors 
finally triumphed. Ibid,, II : 94, 95b, 97, 98, 99. 

i* Keene Proprietors' Records, Mss., for September 12, 1735. A 
grist mill was built on a similar basis. Griffin, History of the Town 
of Keene, 1732-1874 (hereafter cited as Griffin, History of Keene), 

1 5 The Hartwood proprietors offered inducement in 1767, the 
committee examined the place, and the mill was built in 1678. 
Hartwood Proprietors' Records, Mss., 34, 35, 49-50, 53. Narra- 
gansett No. 1 Proprietors' Records, 105, 119-120, 121-122, 123, 125, 
131, 141, 149, 155, 269-270, etc. At New Milford, Conn., the first 
mill was not built and the proprietors kept voting £100 and even £133 
as gratuity Orcutt, History of the Town of New Milford and 
Bridgewater, Connecticut, 1703-1882 (hereafter cited as Orcutt, 
History of New Milford), 41 and 42. 


' ' provided he bring his wife and settle upon it. ' ' 16 Taking 
advantage of such bounties offered some adventurous souls 
occupied the land without building a mill. In such cases 
law suits often followed. 17 Where the mill was not built 
or intended to be built later, the proprietors always re- 
served a certain tract of land for the purpose, specifically 
designated as such. 18 Sometimes a certain lot was reserved 
outright for the miller and it descended from one proprietor 
of the mill to another, by deeds of quitclaim or by Deeds 
of Warranty . . . free from all conditions. 19 Not only 
did the proprietors thus provide for the building of mills, 
but they also appointed committees to procure millers under 
such gratuities and conditions. One rare case is that of 
John Winthrop, one of the New London proprietors, who 
tried to get a miller from among the Scotch-Irish immi- 
grants arriving at Boston. In answer to his letter Thomas 
Lechmere, his brother-in-law and the Surveyor General of 
Customs at Boston, wrote that servants were not cheap and 

i 6 Larned, History of Windham County, Connecticut, 1 : 27, quot- 
ing proprietors' records. It was built by William Bartholomew. 
Ibid., 123. 

For other examples of similar type, see: Donovan and Woodward, 
History of Lyndeborough, 31 ; Smith, History of the Town of 
Peterborough, New Hampshire (hereafter cited as Smith, History 
of Peterborough), 25-26, 344; Blake, History of Warwick, 28, 31; 
Sheldon, History of Suffield, 22, 62; Vermont Historical Society, 
Proceedings, 1908-9, 85. 

it For example, Copeland, History of the Town of Murray-field, 
1760-1862 (hereafter cited as Copeland, History of Murray field) , 58- 
59-60; Stearns, History of Ashbumham, 83-84-85; Connecticut 
Archives, Towns and Lands, Mss., II: 94-99. 

i 8 A mill lot was reserved at Housatonic No. 1. Housatonnoc 
No. 1 Proprietors' Eecords, Mss., 6, 13, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23. Lower 
Housatonic had a similar lot reserved. Lower Housatonnock Pro- 
prietors' Eecords, Mss., I: 82, 88, 345. 

is Waterbury Proprietors* Eecords, 239-240. In the Report of 
the committee to investigate the mill land in Waterbury, 1851. 


that "never were they dearer than now, there being such 
demand for them." 20 Besides the millers the proprie- 
tors also encouraged other artisans for the settlements, 
such as carpenters and blacksmiths, upon similar terms 
as millers. 

The proprietors of the eighteenth century as the capitalist 
class are best shown in their attempts at actual settlements. 
Next to the general laying out of the towns, the division of 
land among themselves, and the provision for the economic 
beginnings of the town life, the most difficult problem which 
the proprietors had to face was the introduction of actual 
settlers in order to fullfill the conditions of grants. 

A typical example of this phase of the proprietary ac- 
tivities is that of the proprietors of the Narragansett No. 1, 
or Buxton, Maine, created in 1728. After failing to induce 
either proprietors or others to settle in the township during 
the first five years of its active life, the propriety, in 1736, 
decided to award £20 each for the first ten proprietors who 
will build a house in his lot and clear four acres of land 
for cultivation within two successive years. For this 
purpose it assessed 40s upon each proprietor. 21 Just one 
year later, finding this not sufficient to induce actual 
settlement, a new plan was drawn up for the purpose of 
encouragement. Thirty proprietors were encouraged to 
file bond for £80 to settle and to receive £20 each for the 
building of a house and the clearing of land within two 
years. The settlers were to remain on the land at least 
seven years. Upon the fulfillment of the conditions, an 
additional £40 each was voted for each proprietor who was 
responsible for the settlement, while the failure to fulfill 
the conditions resulted in the forfeiture of the bond. These 

zoWinthrop Papers, VI: 386-387. Ford, Scotch Irish in Amer- 
ica, 222-223. 

2i Narragansett No. 1 Proprietors' Beowds, 101-102. 


thirty proprietors were of course exempted from the tax- 
ation to cover the above charges. 22 The same plan was 
reaffirmed in the following year. 23 

These measures did not bring about actual settlement 
and in 1742 we read two interesting petitions addressed to 
the General Court, complaining of the delinquent character 
of the proprietors. One 24 of these is signed by the eleven 
settlers of the township, dated May 20, 1742, and bitterly 
complains of the non-fulfillment of the conditions of the 
grant. Among other things, it states the "extraordinary 
cost and charges in carrying on the settlement" to that 
date, without minister, school, public building, or necessary 
fortifications; the failure of their repeated attempts in 
inviting and entreating the proprietors to fulfill the condi- 
tions of grant ; the distant residence of the proprietors and 
the inconveniences caused thereby ; and their determination 
to withdraw from the township unless they are better 
accommodated. Then they prayed the Court to forfeit the 
whole township to the petitioners. There is no action of 
the Court on record. The other petition was signed by 
the sixty-two inhabitants of Biddeford and Scarborough. 
After complaining that not more than ten or a dozen of 
the grantees of the township had settled their lots, they 
petitioned that the land be forfeited and the grant of the 
same be made to the petitioners. 23 Nothing further devel- 
oped in the case. 

Although these petitions were found to be futile, the 

22 Ibid., 103-104. 

23 Ibid., 105-106. 

24 Ibid., 48-50. The full text of this petition is also in Massa- 
chusetts Archives, Mss., CCCIII: 39. 

25 Narragansett No. 1 Proprietors ' Records, 45-47. 

26 See for example, Ibid., 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 131, 141, etc. 
In 1742 £1800 Old Tenor were voted to encourage thirty men who 
will settle. Ibid., 124. 


proprietors, in the meanwhile, were busy in appointing a 
committee to meet these charges and in planning the actual 
settlement. During the ten years following, the meetings 
were held "to encourage the first settlers" and "to bring 
forward the settlement, ' ' to raise money for the encourage- 
ment of settlers, and to investigate, even to prosecute, the 
proprietors who have not fulfilled their bonds. 26 Time and 
again committees were appointed "to examine and inspect 
into all demands that may appear against the proprietors" 
or "to take effectual care that the proprietors do forthwith 
fulfill their obligations to all intents. ? ' 27 However, the 
result of all these votes were entirely futile and a satisfac- 
tory fulfillment of the conditions, particularly with respect 
to settlement, did not come. 

A pecuniary encouragement for the settlement of town- 
ships was very commonly given in other grants. The 
Ashfield proprietors voted £5 to each of the first ten pro- 
prietors who should build a house and clear six acres of 
land; 28 the Ashburnham proprietors granted £4 to each of 
the fifteen first settlers who should build a house and com- 
ply with the other conditions of the grant ; 29 the Amherst 
proprietors agreed to give £6 to each settler who should 
build a house and clear 2 acres of land within 3 years. 30 
At Westminster, £12 each was offered for 15 families in 
1734, but none settled ; £10 each was offered for 60 families 
in 1736, but none settled ; £29 and 10s each was offered to 
the settling families in 1741 and at the end of one year 

27 See for example, Ibid., 141, 146, 169, etc. 

28 1741. Howes, History of Ashfield, 59. There were settled about 
eleven families in 1754 and about nineteen families in 1761. Ibid., 
63, 70. 

29 1739. Stearns, History of Ashburnham, 68. The proprietors 
of Ashburnham were reported to have spent for this purpose £1500 
Old Tenor before 1745. Ibid., 74. 

so 1735. Seeomb, History of Amherst, 28, 43. 


19 families settled, of whom 11 were permanent. 31 The 
Winchendon proprietors voted £100 to each one of the first 
ten who should build a house and settle a family, which 
was complied with. 32 At Warner, in 1740, the propriety 
decided to offer £20 to the first five families who would 
settle within one year following; in 1763 40-acres lot was 
granted to each settler and of the twenty-one who had 
signed about twelve actually settled. 33 A graduated bounty 
was offered by the proprietors of Arlington, Vt., to the first 
ten settlers : £6 to the first, £5-10s to the second, and so on, 
the tenth receiving £l-10s. 34 At Warwick the proprietors 
gradually increased the bounty for the purpose of encour- 
agement, as £6 in 1738, £20 in 1749, and £30 in 1751. 35 
The proprietors of Hartford, Vt., even offered a premium 
of 6d for each bushel of wheat, rye, or Indian corn raised 
at Hartford, as an encouragement for settlement and cul- 
tivation of land. 36 

Besides these pecuniary encouragements the settlers usu- 
ally received gratis a small tract of land for cultivation. 
Rarely a small charge was collected. Thus at Concord, 20s 
per capita were collected from one hundred admitted 
settlers "to pay and defray the charge of the committee " 

3i Heywood, History of Westminster, Massachusetts, 64, 65, 74. 
By 1751, eighty-four settled. Ibid., 82-84. 

32 1752. Marvin, History of the Town of Winchendon, Massachu- 
setts, 1735-1868 (hereafter cited as Marvin, History of Winchen- 
don), 44. Six settled in March and four in April. Ibid., 44. The 
first child born in the township received a donation of land from 
the proprietors. Ibid., 46. 

33 1763. Harriman, History of Warner, New Hampshire, 1735- 
1879 (hereafter cited as Harriman, History of Warner), 53, 62, 79, 

s* Goodrich, Immigration to Vermont, Vermont Historical Society, 
Proceedings 1908-1909, 85. 

35 Blake, History of Warwick, 22, 23. There were thirty-seven 
families in 1761. Ibid., 31. 

36 1763. Tucker, History of Hartford, Vermont, 1761-1889, 30. 


in surveying and granting of land. 37 In some cases land 
was granted in addition to money for the encouragement 
of settlers. The proprietors of Murrayfleld, thus, gave 100 
acres "as an Incouragement ' ' upon filing a bond of £50 as 
a guarantee for settlement within three years. 38 The pro- 
prietors of Keene, N. H., voted, in 1740, 10-acres bounty 
to the settled proprietors, upon completion of required legal 
dwelling houses. 39 The Hartwood proprietors in 1765 
offered 25-acres bounty in the second division of land to 
the first ten settlers. 40 

It was through these encouragements offered by the pro- 
prietors that some of the numerous townships created in 
the eighteenth century were settled. It was however a 
slow process and the proprietors, receiving very little sup- 
port from the absentee and delinquent proprietors, only 
partially succeeded in their aims as we shall see later. 


Next to the actual settlement of the townships, one of the 
important conditions of New England grants was the 
settling of an orthodox minister and the building of a 
meeting house for the public worship of God. To provide 
for the religious life of the inhabitants of the newly 
founded townships in this way was from the beginning 
one of the characteristic features of the New England town 
grants and the religious life always followed the expanding 
settlements. However, as in the case of the settlement, this 
condition was not readily complied with until late in the 

37 New Hampshire State Papers, XXIV : 613, quoting the records 
of the proprietors' meeting on February 5, 1725. 

3« The bond was to be returned in three years, however. Murray- 
field Proprietors' Records, Mss. 1:5. 

39 There were forty settled proprietors in 1740, a rare case in 
this period. Griffin, History of Keene, 39-40. 

40 Hartford Proprietors' Records, Mss., 32. 


history of the towns. If the settlement itself was not 
brought about early, it is quite evident that the minister 
would not be settled early. 

As far as the stated minister's and ministerial lots were 
concerned, the proprietors everywhere faithfully parcelled 
them out at every division of land in the township. In 
many cases they even voted an additional grant, not only 
in land but also in money. 

On the other hand, when the proprietors lived far away 
from the townships and when there were only a few 
settlers within the townships, the provision of ministers 
and the building of meeting houses were not an attractive 
problem. However, we find the proprietors in many towns 
addressing themselves to this task very early, by appointing 
committees and voting necessary expenses. At Ashburnham 
(1735), in spite of the small number of settlers and the 
enormous expense to the proprietors, the meeting house 
was built in 1740, £3,000 being levied upon the proprietors 
for the purpose. 41 The proprietors of Amherst (1734) 
raised the frame work of a meeting house in 1739, and 
kept voting funds to finish it until 1753 when it was prac- 
tically completed. 42 At Westminster (1728) the meeting 
house was built in 1739, 43 at Buxton (1728) in 1741, 44 at 
Peterborough (1738) in 1752, 45 at Winchendon (1735) 
raised in 1752 and finished in 1762, 46 and at Warwick 

4i Stearns, History of Ashburnham, 66, 67. The amount was Old 
Tenor. The date attached to the name of the town is the date of 
the grant, so as to show the lapse of time when the conditions were 

4 2 The first meeting of the proprietors was held in the new meeting 
house at Amherst in 1745. Secomb, Hnstory of Amherst, 234-236. 

43 Heywood, History of Westminster, 69, 71. 

44 Narragansett No. 1 Proprietors' Records, 120, 121, 127. 

45 Smith, History of Peterborough, 84. 

46 Marvin, History of Winchendon, 50, 51, 146#\ 


(1735) in 1736. 47 The proprietors of Hartwood (1763) 
voted for the building* of the meeting house, appointed a 
committee, and appropriated £72 (Extra £36 for cords 
and shingles and later additional £18) in 1767 and 1768 
but the building was not finished before 1772. 48 The pro- 
prietors of Housatonic No. 1 (1737) voted for a meeting 
house in 1742 and appropriated £134 ; 49 at Upper Housa- 
tonic, after the building of the meeting house, the pews 
were sold to the highest bidders to defray the expenses ; 50 
the proprietors of Bennington, Vt., voted "to raise six 
dollars on every right" and even to petition the New 
Hampshire government "to raise a tax on all lands in 
Bennington, resident and non-resident, to build a meeting 
house. 51 In many cases the problem of building the meet- 
ing house is discussed at the very first meeting of the pro- 
prietors, though the construction is not finished till later; 
in others the discussion was postponed ten or even twenty 
years. The usual procedure was the appointment of a 
committee which was empowered to select the site, to clear 
the ground, to let the contract, and to report the necessary 
expenses. Many charges accrued on this account alone, be- 
sides the actual expense of raising the meeting house itself. 
The delay in the work was more than common in those 

47 Blake, History of Warwick, 25-26. 

48 Hartwood Proprietors' Records, Mss., 36, 37-38, 43, 75, 79. 
In 1769 the first project was twice negatived at the proprietors' 

49 Housatonnoc No. 1 Proprietors ' Records, Mss., 29, 64. The 
expense was paid by the proprietors' treasurer. Ibid., 31. 

5 The proprietors ' meeting on April 4, 1746. After reserving 
a pew for the minister, the remaining pews were voted to be sold. 
The prices were: £77, £73, £40, £97, etc., all Old Tenor. Upper 
Housatonnock Proprietors' Records, Mss., 161. The meeting house 
was voted in 1742 and built in 1743. Ibid., 156-157, 158. 

51 Jenning, Memorial of a Century: Bennington, Vermont, 25, 
quoting the j^roprietors ' records. 


days when the means of communication were imperfect and 
the proprietors lived far away from the townships. It was 
due to similar factors which retarded the settlement pro- 
jects in general. 52 In this case Indian hostility was an 
important impediment. At Lyndeborough (1735), where 
the meeting house was raised in 1741, for example, the 
further work was stopped on account of three reasons : the 
New Hampshire-Massachusetts boundary dispute and its 
uncertainty, the troublesome Masonian claims, and the 
prospect of an approaching Indian war. 53 At Buxton the 
the finishing of the meeting house was delayed "by reason 
of ye talk of a f rench war. ' ' 54 

The settlement of ministers was a still more difficult task 
and was delayed even longer than the building of the meet- 
ing houses. But the proprietors were not altogether negli- 
gent in fulfilling the conditions of grants. Before the 
settlement of a permanent minister, the proprietors, as soon 
as there were enough inhabitants, provided for preaching 
in the summer time, during a certain period of the year, 
or a certain selected Sundays. Thus, for example, the 
proprietors of Buxton, Me., before the final settlement of a 
minister in 1762, are seen appointing committees from time 
to time and voting liberally the necessary expenses for the 
preaching in the new township. 55 The proprietors of West- 
minster 56 and of Amherst 57 also voted for similar purposes. 

Then followed the actual settlement of ministers. At 

"a See below, 221-223. 

53 Donovan and Woodward, History of Lyndeborough, 35, 36, 37. 

54 Narragansett No. 1 Proprietors' Records, 127. 

^Tbid., 160, 162, 172, 174, 182, etc. Over £100 were paid in 
1752, £96 in 1756, £66 and 13s in 1757, £150 in 1761, etc. 

56 They voted £60 annually from 1738 till 1741. Heywood, His- 
tory of Westminster, 106, 197, 198. 

57 £20 for preaching for six months in 1738 and 1739, and an 
additional sum of 50s a day for each Sabbath preaching in 1739 and 
1740. Secomb, History of Amherst, 251. 


Keene, N. H., the proprietors ordained and settled a min- 
ister in 1738, with a promise that the propriety will pay 
him £150 for the first year, £130 per annum for ten years 
following, and then £10 more as long as he lives. Moreover, 
£280 was voted for the expense of ordination and salary, 
and £24 for his fire woods. 58 The proprietors of New 
Marblehead made an agreement in 1760 with the inhabitants 
in which the former agreed to pay £120 for the first year 
and £60 per annum for the two ensuing years for the 
settlement of a minister. 59 At Amherst (1734) the pro- 
prietors ordained and installed a minister in 1741, and voted 
£240 to pay the minister's "Settlement, Salary, Ordination, 
and other Charges." 60 At Westminster (1728) a minister 
was ordained in 1742, 61 at Ashburnham (1735) in 1760, 62 
at Warwick (1735) in 1760, 63 and at Winchendon (1735) 
in 1762. 64 The salary of the ministers thus ordained and 
installed ranged from fifty to one hundred and fifty pounds 
a year, and the proprietors paid it together with other 
ministerial expenses until the town was incorporated. 
These expenses were raised in proportion to the shares 
held by the proprietors. 65 Besides the salary the proprie- 

ss Griffin, History of Keene, 46, 47, 49-50. Earlier in 1737, they 
voted £60 and appointed a committee to settle one. Ibid., 39. 

59 Dated June 6, 1760. Massachusetts Archives, Mss., CXVII : 

60 Secomb, History of Amherst, 252. 

si Heywood, History of Westminster, 110. 

6 2 Stearns, History of Ashburnham, 245-247, 251. 

63 Blake, History of Warwick, 28-29. 

64 Marvin, History of Winchendon, 147-148. 

65 For example, the proprietors of Housatonic No. 1 assessed 10s 
a right to raise £134 toward the settlement of a minister. Housa- 
tonnoe No. 1 Proprietors ' Eecords, Mss., 25, 28-29, 75. The Hart- 
wood proprietors voted "half a Doaler a right" and "a, Doaler 
a Eight" for the same purpose. Hartwood Proprietors' Eecords, 
Mss., 48, 71. 


tors sometimes granted additional pieces of land or pro- 
prietary rights to reward the minister's work. 66 

Thus we may note that the proprietors contributed much 
toward the healthy settlement of townships by providing, 
sooner or later, for the public worship of God in the far off 
woodlands of New England. The house of God always 
followed the settlements. 


The occupation of the frontier districts was closely inter- 
woven with the defense of the frontiers, and as the line of 
the first official New England frontier widened its curve 
outward with the advance of settlements, the problem of 
defense became graver. The Massachusetts townships in 
the north and the west, in fact, were created partly for 
the defense of the Province against Indians, while this very 
fact constituted one of the strongest impediments on the 
road to settlements. The proprietors of the frontier town- 
ships were not altogether blind to the problem and to their 
responsibility. In their zeal to bring about settlements, 
even if they were in the minority, some of them tried to 
increase the prestige of their respective townships by pro- 
viding some means of defense. 

The proprietors of Peterborough were from necessity 
interested in the problem of defense. In October, 1750, 
they addressed a petition to the General Court at Boston 
for liberty to build a blockhouse in the township at govern- 
ment expense and took measures to protect the settlers 

66 The Union proprietors gave 200 acres to Wyman, a settled 
minister. Lawson, History of Union, Connecticut, 60. The proprie- 
tors of Upper Housatonie voted 50 acres to Rev. Samuel Hopkins 
in 1774. Upper Housatonnock Proprietors' Records, Mss., 8. At 
Saybrook, Conn., a £50 right was voted for the minister. Saybrook 
Proprietors' Records, Mss., 54. See also Smith, History of Peter- 
borough, 354-355; Marvin, History of Winchendon, 148^. 


from Indian raids. 67 Getting' no encouragement from the 
Court, at their regular meeting held in Boston in December, 
they voted and sent ten pounds of powder and twenty 
pounds of lead * ' for the use of the settlers. ' ' 68 Four years 
later they again sent half a barrel of powder, one hundred 
pounds of lead, and two hundred flints for the use of the 
settlers "in case of war." At the same time the minister 
at Peterborough was presented with a gun. 69 The proprie- 
tors of Charleston, N. H., set themselves in 1743 to build 
a fort for the benefit of the settlers and expended upward 
of £300, but the whole settlement was unfortunately de- 
serted when the Indian war came shortly afterward. 70 The 
Winchendon proprietors in 1753 raised £300 O.T. for forti- 
fying the homes and completing the garrison. 71 At Ash- 
burnham, the proprietors also built a blockhouse for the 
benefit of the settlers there. 72 The proprietors of Narra- 
gansett No. 1 assisted the Province garrison and voted to 
aid the building of forts. 73 

These are a few of the scattered proprietary activities 
with regard to the problem of defense. Generally speaking, 
however, they left the problem of defense to the care of the 
colonial governments and the pioneer settlers themselves. 74 

67 Massachusetts Archives, Mss., CXVII: 184-185. 

68 The proprietors' meeting on Dec. 14, 1750. Smith, History of 
Peterborough, 348. 

69 The proprietors' meeting on June 4, 1754. Ibid., 350. 

70 The proprietors' meeting on Nov. 24, 1743. A committee of 
three members was appointed to carry on the work and voted "a 
Carpenter be allowed 9s O. T. per day; each laborer 7 s per day, and 
a pair of oxen 3 s 6 d per day Old Tenor." Saunderson, History of 
Charlestown, New Hampshire, the Old No. 4, 17-18. 

7i The proprietors' meeting on Oct. 31, 1754. Marvin, History 
of Winchendon, 4:7. 

72 1744. Stearns, History of Ashburnham, 72-73. 

73 Narragansett No. 1 Proprietors* Eecords, 137, 167-168. 

74 For the similar activities of the Great Proprietors, see below 
Chapter VIII, "The Revival of the Ancient Patents." 



As proprietors of the common and undivided lands, the 
chief activities of the town proprietors centered upon the 
division and distribution of land. As land was the source 
of their being as well as the center of their interest, this 
phase of their activities naturally formed a most important 
part of the life of any propriety. In order to understand 
the proper significance of the division of the common and 
undivided lands, we must briefly describe the general lay- 
out of towns under the New England regime. 

The character of the land in any township differed ac- 
cording to its location and topography. Naturally, although 
the plan of settlement in its general outline was uniform, 
in the result there was infinite variety of detail. In general, 
however, if we discard the minor features, the land might 
be classified roughly under the three heads : (1) the cleared 
upland which furnished the town plot, home lots, and 
planting grounds; (2) the meadow or marshy lands which 
lay around the cleared land and were generally utilized for 
hay and pasturage; and (3) the woodlands which furnished 
wood and sometimes were used for swine, sheep, or young 
cattle. 75 

The first step in the settlement of a town was the laying 
out of the town plot and the assignment of home lots, with 
necessary streets and highways. 76 In thus laying the foun- 
dation of the future town, the proprietors (the town in the 
earlier years) usually reserved a small tract of land in the 
center of the township for the use of the town generally 
and around it had grown all town activities. This is the 
"town common" which forms an unique spot in almost all 
New England towns even to-day. Other public lots such 
as the burying ground and the school lots and the church 
lots adjoined it, while the minister's lots were allotted from 

ts Osgood, op. cit., I: 437-438; Mead, op. cit., 74-75. 


time to time with the other divisions. At times other lands 
were sequestered as "town common" and furnished pas- 
turage, firewood, timber, building materials, etc., to the 
inhabitants of the town without any reference to the pro- 
prietary ownership. 

The assignment of first home lots was accompanied or 
immediately followed by the division of the adjacent lands, 
the meadow and the arable and the woodland. These were 
divided from time to time into large fields in tiers or in 
rectangular plots, according to their location and value, 
and subdivided in severalty among the proprietors or 
sometimes given to the admitted non-proprietors for their 
encouragement. 77 These divisions ordinarily took two 
forms: grant of lots to individuals and laying out of 
common fields. The common fields too, in their turn, were 
later subdivided among the proprietors. In the majority 
of the New England proprieties, these several divisions 
came one after another, covering a considerable period of 
time, until the whole township was transferred into indi- 
vidual ownership. A significant result of dividing up a 
township in this manner was that a considerable portion 
of the land would remain for a greater or less period of 
time undivided. This portion was under the exclusive 
management of the town proprietors and was known as 
the "common and undivided lands." 

The principle by which these common and undivided 
lands were divided and distributed among the proprietors 
or the new comers differed slightly before and after the 

76 For the method of laying out the home lots and their varying 
sizes, see Egleston, op. cit., 42-43 ; Mead, op. cit., 75 ; McLear, op. 
cit., 81-84; Osgood, op. oit., I: 438^-439. 

77 For the description of divisions into tiers, see Andrews, River 
Towns of Connecticut, 45jf. For the division of towns in its diverse 
forms, see Osgood, op. cit., I: 438-449; McLear, op. cit., 85^. 


legal organization of the proprietors. 78 During the early- 
years, generally in the seventeenth century, when the town 
and the proprietors were practically coterminous and when 
the town controlled all divisions of land, there seems to 
have been no uniformity nor universal rule. The distribu- 
tion of land was generally based upon the number of shares 
held, 79 amount of town charges or taxes paid, 80 value of 
estates or property possessed, 81 or number of persons con- 

78 For the general treatment of this subject, see the following: 
McLear, op. cit., 81-87; Osgood, op. cit., I: 456-464; Andrews, 
Eiver Towns of Connecticut, 42-63 ; Egleston, op. cit., 34-39 ; Mead, 
op. cit., 74-76. 

79 Temple and Sheldon, History of the Town of Northfield, 220 ; 
Roads, History of Marblehead, 18; Sheldon, History of Deerfield, 
I: 9. The shares in the earlier years were based upon the number 
of original settlers and legally admitted members. Sometimes they 
were determined in accordance with the amount of money contributed 
in the purchase of land or for the betterment of the township. At 
times shares were counted according to the number of rights a per- 
son possessed in a certain division of a tract of land. In Cambridge, 
Mass., for example, the shares were proportioned to the interest 
held in the Cow Common. Cambridge Proprietors' Records, 144- 
145, 160-165. Similar thing was true at Hampden, N. H. Dow, 
History of Hampden, New Hampshire, 1630-1892, I: 32-33. 

80 At Ipswich, Mass., the division of 1665 was made according 
to the town rates in the proportion of 4, 6, and 8, thus giving 
the poorest one-half as much as the richest. Egleston, op. cit., 37. 
In Guilford, Conn., it was agreed that " every one should pay his 
proportional part or share toward all the charges and expenses for 
purchasing, settling, surveying and carrying on the necessary pub- 
lic affairs of the plantation, and that all divisions of land should 
be made in exact proportion to the summs they advanced and ex- 
pended." Ibid., 38. See also Hadley Proprietors ' Records, Mss., 
246-251; Nash, History of Weymouth, 50; Mann, Historical Annals 
of Dedham, 82; Egleston, op. cit., 34-35; Osgood, op. cit., I: 456. 

si This method was quite popular in many towns during the 
earlier years. Lewis and Newhall, History of Lynn, 308 ; Wells and 


tained in a family. 82 Of these the first principle was more 
universal while the last one was limited to a few towns and 
gradually died away. The right to a division of land on 
the basis of dwelling houses was another principle which 
was practiced in some towns but it proved to be merely a 
source of trouble. 83 When we come to the eighteenth cen- 
tury, after the proprietors became independent of the towns 
and organized themselves legally as a propriety, the prin- 
ciple followed in any division of common and undivided 
lands was almost universally uniform, namely, division ae- 

Wells, History of Hatfield, Massachusetts, 1660-1910 (hereafter 
cited as Welles and Welles, History of Hatfield), 109-110, 473-476; 
Bleis, History of Behoboth, 25; Egleston, op. cit., 35-36. At Haver- 
hill, Mass., it was voted in 1643 that "he that was worth £222, to 
have 20 acres to his house-lot . . . and so every one under that 
sum to have acres proportionable for his house-lot, together with 
meadow and common, and planting ground proportionally. ff Chase, 
History of Haverhill, 56, quoting Haverhill records. In Hadley, 
Mass., where the rates were used as a basis of division, the estates 
were also used. At one time, each proprietor received allotments 
according to his estates, varying from £50 to £200. Egleston, op. 
cit., 36-37. See also New Haven Col. Bee, I: 27, 43, 192. 

8 2 Drake, History of Middlesex County, II : 461. In Northampton, 
Mass., every head of the family was to have six acres and every 
single man four acres, in addition to their respective shares. Egles- 
ton, op. cit., 36. In the New Haven Colony, the division was based 
both upon the value of estates and the number of persons. la 
the first division, the rate was 5 acres to £100 and 2y 2 acres for 
each person. New Haven Col. Bee, I: 27, 43. At Hadley, Mass., 
sometimes the head of the family drew lot and the minor above 16 
years old was given £25 right. Holland, History of Western 
Massachusetts, I: 33. 

83 The ' ■ cottagers ' ' specifically belonged to this class. See below 
Chapter V, on "The Controversies of the Town Proprietors." At 
one time in Cambridge, Mass., householders who had no right were 
given 12 acres each. Cambridge Proprietors' Becords, 167. An- 
drews, Biver Towns of Connecticut, 56-57, gives the case of Wethers- 
field in 1670. 


cording to the interest a proprietor held in any propriety. 84 
Such interest was commonly known as ' ' shares, ' ' tl rights, ' ' 
"accommodations," or simply "interests." These shares 
were equal in value, being same in number as the original 
proprietors and were often divided into small fractional 
parts as they passed from one person to another, both by 
purchase and inheritance. 

In the actual division, the principle of fairness was given 
a prominent place, each share being entitled to an equal 
amount of land. This was brought about by a system of 
drawing lots in the distribution of divided lands, thus 
assuring the fairness of division in the first instance. 85 
This however often failed in accomplishing the desired 
equality of division as to the quality of land and the system 
of equalizing the divided lots as to " quality and quantity ' ' 

84 Sometimes the older method was followed. See the ease of 
Windsor, Conn., where the real estate was the basis of division in 
1725. Andrews, Elver Towns of Connecticut, 59, foot note. 

85 The practice of drawing lots at Enfield, Conn., is thus described, 
as it was used in the division of 1725, in the Commoners' Book: 
"a Number of papers with a figure on Each paper from ye Number 
of one until there be so many papers Numbered that they may Ex- 
tend to y e whole Number of Propriety and according to the Number 
upon the paper that Each Proprietor or Commoner shall then Re- 
ceive; So thay Shall goe in order to y e place where the papers are 
prepared for the Lott and Draw papers in order for the taking 
up of his Lotts upon the Commons as it has been heretofore 
granted." Allen, History of Enfield, I (Commoners' Boole): 714- 
715. The Norfolk (Conn.) proprietors followed a different method: 
"The method we now agree to draw our lots is — the 52 lots be put 
into a hatt, and some indifferent person shall draw out a ticket 
which shall be numbered which shall be the lot's number, and the 
lot which either proprietors draw as above shall be held as his in 
severalty, and the next 52 lots shall be drawn for in the same 
method." Norfolk Proprietors' Records, Mss., B: 7, 8. At Keene, 
N. H., one lot was drawn one day, another next day, and so forth 
until the whole is divided and allocated. Keene Proprietors ' Records, 
Mss., for Oct. 26, 1737. 


was everywhere carefully practiced. 86 This was done either 
(1) by the surveyor in charge of the division in dividing 
up land according to its quality in advance, (2) by "choice 
pitch" or scattering of one's lots so as to compensate a 
bad land by a better, or (3) by granting, after the division, 
"equalizing lots" or "equivalent" in accordance with the 
complaint. The result of such a system was the scattering 
of one's holdings at different sections all over the township 
which was quite characteristic of the proprietary holdings 
in the New England towns. In order to keep up further 
harmony among the proprietors, even three or more pro- 
prietors were given power to petition for a division in 
some town and thereby interests of the few and the majority 
were reconciled. 87 The result was that the poor was 
generally well provided for and in some towns the largest 
share was only four times greater than the smallest ; while 
in some towns the ratio was even two to one. 88 At Spring- 
field, Mass., land was granted only to the proprietors of 
small holdings and the proprietors went so far as to forbid 
the sale of granted land to "any person that hath land 
now granted" in order that "no person may engross more 

ss At New Milford, Conn., in a division, it was agreed that "what 
is wanting in quality of the land" should "be made up in quan- 
tity." Orcutt, History of New Milford, 13-14. The Keene pro- 
prietors voted in 1736 that the surveyor should "proportion Each 
Lott in quallety by considering the qualleties of Each man's former 
Divisions to make Each mans Right in all former Divisions alike 
in quallety.' ' Keene Proprietors' Records, Mss., for May 14, 1736. 
See also, Upper Housatonnoek Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 7; 
Mass. Acts and Resolves, XI: 659, 797. 

87 Mass. Acts and Resolves, IV : 524-525, 679-680. 

88 See for example, Felt, History of Ipswich, 161; Osgood, op. cit., 
I: 458-461. 


than one share of land there. ' ' 89 However, great in 
equality was the natural result and engrossment was not 
uncommon, particularly in the eighteenth century when 
the spirit of speculation crept into land transactions. 00 

The voting on the question of commonage and the divi- 
sion of undivided lands had a development also to be noted 
in this connection. At first, when the town and the pro- 
prietors exercised joint authority over the land in the 
earlier period, there seems to have been uniform voting 
based upon number. In the Plymouth Colony, a majority 
vote according to the number of proprietors was decreed in 
1682. 91 In Massachusetts it was sometimes the individual, 
not the amount of his interests, which determined the vote. 
But as time went on, the property interest became stronger 
and the matter came to be settled in the proprietors' meet- 
ing where each man was entitled to an influence propor- 
tionate to the amount of his interest in the land, that is, in 
proportion to his shares. The same principle, as a result 
of a similar evolution, was in practice also in the other New 
England Colonies and the proprietary shares became in- 
variably the basis of all proprietary votes during the eight- 
eenth century. 

As the proprietors divided or sold or set off their lands 
in severalty, they remained proprietors in common only of 
the residue. With the multiplication of divisions all lands 
were eventually transferred from common into individual 
ownership. At such a stage, when all common lands were 
resolved into holdings in severalty and the object for which 

89 Burt, History of Springfield, I: 318-319, quoting records. 

90 Controversies were often due to the inequality of proprietary 
divisions. See below Chapter V, "The Controversies of the Town 
Proprietors. ' ' 

viPlym. Col. Bee, Laws, 257. 


they existed disappeared, the organization of proprietors 
became no longer necessary and ceased to exist for lack of 
raison d'etre. 92 


Besides the ''town common" and the proprietors' "com- 
mon and undivided lands, ' ' there was still another form of 
common land. It was customary in many New England 
towns to allow the lands already divided up among the 
proprietors to remain in a "common field." Sometimes a 
certain tract of land, to be used or improved in common, 
was set aside as proprietors' "common field" without 
division in severalty. The New England settlers were well 
accustomed with the tenure of these common fields in Eng- 
land where the system was in practice from an early date. 
The value of these stated commons before the division in 
severalty lay in their furnishing pasturage for horses, 
cattle, and sheep and providing the proprietors with timber, 
stone, grass, and earth. In the earlier years the common 
cultivation of these common fields, in large or small scale, 
was very general in the New England towns, but the com- 
munal method of cultivation did not gain a strong foothold 
there in the midst of growing individualism and the system 
persisted only in a very small number of towns, if at all, 
in the later period. 93 On the other hand, the system of 
commonage lasted till late in many towns in the form of 
common pasturage and the "right of commonage" became 

9 2 Andrews, Biver Towns of Connecticut, 62 ; New Hampshire 
State Papers, XXIV: v; Fry, New Hampshire as a Royal Province, 
297 ; Angell and Ames, Law of Private Corporation Aggregate, 183 ; 
Mead, op. cit., 73 and foot notes. 

93 For the custom of common cultivation, see Egleston, op. cit., 
41-42; Osgood, op. cit., I: 117-118, 440-441; MeLear, op. cit., 87- 


one of the highly valued proprietary rights in many a pro- 
priety. 94 

The common fields were under the exclusive control of 
the proprietors. 95 Where it was already divided among 
individual proprietors, each owner improved his own plot in 
his own way and after the crops had been removed it was 
customary to open the field in common for all proprietors, 
allowing each owner to turn in a number of cattle in pro- 
portion to his acreage of land in the field. 96 When the 
common fields were set aside by the proprietors en Moc with- 
out division in severalty, the right of commonage was regu- 
lated according to the proprietors' shares. In either case, 
the importance, as well as the difficulty, of this phase of 
the proprietary activities is well brought out by the amount 
of colonial legislation upon the subject. These inumerable 
regulations directed the proprietors: 97 to enclose all com- 
mon fields; to build and to keep in repair the common 
fences and gates, the amount being proportional to the 
amount of holdings in the field or the number of proprie- 

94 That the colonists were accustomed to this form of tenure in 
England and that the principle of commonage is as old as the set- 
tled occupations of land itself are clearly brought out by Andrews, 
"River Towns of Connecticut, 65jf. 

95 In the early years, this was left to the town. The Act of 1643 
in Massachusetts, for example, gave the town officers the decision 
of disputes among proprietors as to the use of the common fields. 
See Osgood, op, cit., I: 433-434; McLear, op. cit., 88-90. This 
again is the question of transition, as in the case of proprietors' 

9 6 Osgood, op. cit., 1 : 433-434 ; Mead, op. cit., 77 ; McLear, op. cit., 

97 Mass. Col. Bee, I: 106; II: 15, 39, 49, 195; Mass. Acts and 
Resolves, II: 100-101, 218, 466, etc. Conn. Col. Rec, IV: 266, 
346, 410, 544; V: 234, 403; VII: 309, 379, 408, 467; VIII: 166-168; 
IX: 239. See particularly the Connecticut Law of 1732, "An Act 
for the better managing and securing and more equal fencing of 
common field." Ibid., VII: 379-380. 


tary shares in the propriety ; to appoint fence-viewers and 
haywards whose duty it was to view the fences under oath 
at regular intervals and impose fines on those proprietors 
who failed to keep their portions in repair; to hold an 
annual meeting, usually in March, for the better regulation 
of the fields ; to submit disputes, when difficulty arose as to 
the division of fences, to the selectmen of the town whose 
decision by the major vote would be binding; and to pay 
all the damages done by the beasts where fences were not 
properly built and maintained. The minute regulations as 
to the size and the proportion of fences to be borne by the 
individuals, the fines for the neglect of building fences and 
keeping them in repair, and the allied subjects were left to 
the proprietors' meeting to decide upon. 98 In the actual 
carrying out of these orders, the town played an important 
part in the earlier years when the proprietary interests 
were diffused with those of the town. As the proprietors 
began to assert their power over the common and undivided 
lands they took up the responsibility upon themselves, and 
upon their legal organization from the close of the seven- 
teenth century, this transition was practically complete 
everywhere. Such a system of fencing was one of the most 
difficult tasks to enforce and naturally the greater part of 
the proprietary activities centered upon it." The system 
of common field, moreover, was the cause of constant tres- 
passes and encroachments on the part of the non-proprie- 

ss The towns dealt with this problem in the early years as in the 
other cases already noted. 

99 An extreme example is the case of the proprietors of Madison, 
Conn., where the proprietors ' records show that the ' ' line of common 
fence" was practically the only subject of discussion and voting 
in the proprietors' meetings between 1725 and 1730. Eeeords of 
Proprietors of ' ' Hammonasset Quarter," Guilford, now Madison, 
1715-1841, Mss. (hereafter cited as Madison Proprietors' Eeeords, 
Mss.), for those years. 


tors, and controversies were constant on account of these 
' ' silent invaders. ' ' 10 ° 

The right of commonage was proportionate to the shares 
held in the propriety and was transferable. 101 During half 
the years the common fields were cultivated according to 
the proprietors' respective shares, numbered out in acres. 
In the fall, after the crops had been removed and grass 
had been cut, the whole field was open for the common 
pasturage and the cattle, horses, and sheep were turned in 
for pasture till the spring. The number of beasts was 
again proportioned according to the shares, the number per 
share being previously determined. 102 In theory this right 
of commonage was exclusively limited to the proprietors; 
but in practice non-proprietors were often accorded that 
right. The opening day of the "commoning time," as it 
was called, was looked forward with great interest and 
formed one of the rare pastimes in the early town life. 
The date was set in the proprietors' meeting, all beasts were 
properly registered with the committee in charge, and the 

100 For such controversies, see below Chapter V, "The Contro- 
versies of the Town Proprietors. ' ' 

i°i In Deerfield, Mass., for example, rights of commonage were 
sold, hired, or leased at fluctuating prices. Sheldon, Common 
Field of Deerfield (Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Pro- 
ceedings, V), 249. 

102 The practice at Deerfield is a good example : one cow or ox 
was counted as one right; 3 three years olds as two rights; 2 two 
years olds as one right; 3 calves or 5 sheep as one right. Horses 
were counted three to five rights a piece and sometimes ruled out 
altogether. A bull over six months old was equal to one hundred 
rights. Sheldon, Common Field of Deerfield (Pocumtuek Valley 
Memorial Association, Proceedings, V), 249. At Nantucket, it 
differed at different times: 1672, one share to 23 sheep; 1689, one 
share to 2 horses, 40 cows, or 100 sheep; 1706, one share to 1 horse, 
2 cows, or 16 sheep. Worth, op. cit., 200. Brand for horses was 
also regulated by the colonies. See for example, Connecticut 
Archives, Industry, Mss., I, passim; Conn. Col. Bee, VII: 111. 


committee of vigilance was required to see that the proper 
proportion was not exceeded. The maintenance of common 
herdsmen was a characteristic accompaniment of such a 
system and common herdsmen and shepherds were very 
familiar figures in the local annals of all parts of New 
England. 103 

103 For the complete study on the subject, see Sheldon, Common 
Field of Deerfield (Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Pro- 
ceedings, V), 238-254. Also, Bronson, History of Water oury, 



It has been pointed out in an early chapter that the town 
proprietors in the New England colonies existed, through- 
out the colonial period, as an inter-colonial institution and 
that they were not under the imperial control or within the 
scope of the imperial system. This inter-colonial independ- 
ence of the New England town proprietors, however, was 
once seriously endangered from the external source. That 
single experiment was the regime of Andros. Inasmuch as 
it directly menaced the town proprietors in their property 
right and the free tenure of land, we may briefly note the 
course of events so far as they affected the town proprietors 
and their rights. 

From the point of view of the imperial system, which 
was slowly growing up toward the latter part of the seven- 
teenth century, there were several elements in the New 
England land system which constituted the source of com- 
plaints. The most important of these was the absence of 
the quit-rents in the several colonies of New England. 

The institution of quit-rents never obtained a strong 
foot hold in the New England colonies. Though quit- 
rents were originally proposed as a feature of the land sys- 
tem, they were not actually established in the colonies of 
Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and Rhode Is- 



land. 1 The responsibility for the failure to establish the 
quit rent in these leading colonies of New England, as Bond 
has pointed out, 2 can be traced in the first instance to the 
wavering and inconsistent policy of the New England 
Council. While it did not abandon the policy of reserving 
such a charge, there is no evidence of any attempt to collect 
these rents. More important in excluding the system from 
New England was the fact that the principle of the quit 
rent was fundamentally foreign to the Puritan idea of the 
absolute ownership of the soil, free of all feudal incidents 
and external restraints. The free tenure of land persisted 
from the first in Plymouth and Massachusetts; the same 
idea completely controlled the Connecticut people from the 
beginning and it was assured by the code of 1650; Rhode 
Island also reflected the Massachusetts system in banishing 
the feudal rent from its soil ; and when Massachusetts an- 
nexed Maine in 1679, the quit-rents were completely ban- 
ished from all New England except New Hampshire. We 
must remember, also, the relaxation of the control exercised 
by the British Government during the Puritan Revolution 
and the Period of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, 
which greatly strengthened the system of free tenure of 
land in New England. 

Under these circumstances, "if the proprietary rights of 
the crown were to be asserted in the New England colonies, 
the system of land tenure free from the usual feudal charge, 
the quit-rent, must first be attacked in its chief stronghold, 
Massachusetts. ' ' 3 Accordingly, the first suggestion of 
quit-rents in Massachusetts seems to have been made by 

i For the full discussion of this subject see Bond, Quit-Bent 
System in the American Colonies, Chapter II. Prof. Andrews' as- 
siduous research enabled him to find a few instances of actual 
requirement of such a charge in Massachusetts, but these did not 
lasi any length of time. Ibid., note on 22-23. 

Ibid., 35-36. 

Ibid., 42. 


Edward Randolph in 1677, when he characterized the in- 
habitants of the colony as usurpers who possessed no legal 
right either to the land or to the government of any part of 
New England. His best remedy was a general pardon with 
a royal declaration, ' ' confirming to the inhabitants the land 
and houses they now possess upon payment of any easy 
quit-rent. ' ' 4 Again in 1686 he pointed out the revenue 
value of such imposition in Massachusetts, as well as in 
Rhode Island and Connecticut, but he was aware of the 
difficulty of collecting such rents. 5 Possibly it was from 
such influence as this that the Lords of Trade recommended, 
in 1684, the confirmation of ' ' all titles of land quietly pos- 
sessed'' in Massachusetts, "reserving a quit-rent of 2s 6d 
every hundred acres. ' ' 6 This is the immediate forerunner 
of Andros' instruction. 

But the absence of quit-rent was not the only grievance 
from the standpoint of imperial control; there were also 
certain defects in the land system in general, which were 
attacked by Andros and his subordinates. 

That the King was the source of all titles to land was 
in general way understood. But in legal documents by 
which lands and townships were granted at the time, the 
line of connection had rarely, if ever, been traced back 
beyond the colony charters. Grants had generally been 
made by a mere vote of the general court, even without the 
use of the colony seal, though the charter specifically re- 
quired it should be used in all such transactions. The 
Puritan abhorrance of any external control ignored such 
formalities. In fact, the grantees held their title directly 

* Memoir of Edward Eandolph for May 6, 1677. Toppan, Ed- 
ward Randolph: His Letters and Correspondences (hereafter cited 
as Eandolph Correspondences), I: 77-78; Bond, op. cit., 43. 

B Bond, op. cit., 43. 

6 In the recommended instruction to Colonel Kirke, the intended 
governor of Massachusetts, Dec. 23, 1684. Bond, op. cit., 44, Note 1. 


from the general court or by purchases from the Indians 
upon permission of the court and there was no indication 
or acknowledgement of any other overlord. 7 

Moreover, in the formulation of town grants and in the 
system of proprietors' allotments by which land generally 
passed into private ownership, there was much in the New 
England practice which, from the standpoint of the English 
law, was irregular or at least novel and undefined. Neither 
towns nor proprietors were expressly incorporated at the 
time in the way towns in the home country were established. 
It was beyond the power of the governments in the cor- 
porate colonies to grant them this quality. 8 

Then also, under the system of common and undivided 
lands, much land remained unoccupied and unimproved for 
an indefinite period of time. Yet those lands were not sub- 
ject to grant or division, as we have seen, except by the pro- 
prietors themselves, or, in the early years, by the towns. 

In short, we have here at least four things which go to 
make up the grounds for the royal control as it was asserted 
under James II., namely, (1) the absence of quit-rents, (2) 
the failure to recognize the royal title to the soil, (3) the 
irregular practice followed in the distribution of land and 
the non-incorporated character of towns and proprietors, 
and (4) the system of idle land. Of these while the first 
was the most important, yet all touched the proprietors of 
the soil. In this brief survey, however, we shall limit 
ourselves only to that phase which affected the land tenure 
of the New England colonies and these several points will 
be made clear as we examine the course of events. 

The commission of Sir Edmund Andros in 1686 directed 
him, with the advice and consent of his Council, "to agree 
with the Planters and Inhabitants . . . concerning such 
lands Tenem ts and hereditaments as now are or hereafter 

7 Cf. Osgood, op. cit., Ill: 407. 

8(7/. Ibid., Ill: 406. 


shall be in our power to dispose of" and to grant them 
* ' vnder such moderate quitt Rents ' ' as should be appointed. 
All grants were to be made under the ' ' Seale of New Eng- 
land.' ' This general order might be interpreted to apply 
merely to the grants of unoccupied lands. That it was 
also intended to apply to occupied lands was clearly shown 
by his instruction which called attention to the existence of 
vast tracts in New England still at the disposal of the 
crown, which were to be granted with a quit-rent of not less 
than 2s 6d per hundred acres, and to other lands of "de- 
fective title" to which the royal confirmation might be 
wanting. The only possible interpretation of the latter 
part of this statement is that settled lands, titles to which 
had been rendered doubtful by the annulment of the Massa- 
chusetts charter, were also to be included. 9 

At any rate this was the interpretation which is borne 
out by the course of events. The point at which the Gov- 
ernor and the most influential Councilors directly aimed 
was land titles. Thus, as soon as his arrival in Boston, 
Andros began his short but tyrannical regime by attacking, 
among other things, the free tenure of land in Massachu- 
setts. He gave public notice that the annulment of the 
charter had invalidated all land titles in Massachusetts and 
that confirmation in the future must include a quit-rent. 
He then called for a general examination of land patents. 

This procedure naturally caused the "utmost conster- 
nation." A few land holders, chiefly officers under the 
Crown or persons closely connected with the royal admin- 
istration, sought confirmation of their lands under the new 
condition, but by far the greater number of inhabitants of 
Massachusetts refused to accede to the Governor's demands. 
They indignantly resented what they regarded as a high- 
handed attempt to saddle upon their lands feudal dues 

9 Publication of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Collec- 
tions, II : 53 ; Bond, op. cit., 43-44. 


from which they had always been free. And the popular 
outcry was ably and eloquently voiced by such men as In- 
crease Mather. 10 

The cause of the proprietors reached a crisis when the 
Councilors, particularly Randolph, began to petition for 
grants from the common and undivided lands in several 
towns and called for resurvey to be made of those lands. 11 
Two of the more typical examples are Randolph's petitions 
for 700 acres of common lands in Cambridge and for 500 
acres at Nahant Neck, respectively in the possession of the 
proprietors of Cambridge and the proprietors of Lynn. 

The position of the Cambridge proprietors is outlined 
in their remonstrance and reply. In these two documents 
they pointed out that the title to their land is derived 
from the royal charter and the grant of the general court, 
and lawfully claimed for fifty years; that the lands peti- 
tioned for had been granted by the town to the several pro- 
prietors as witness the records in the Town Book and had 
been lawfully possessed and improved at a great charge 
since, and therefore "those Lands are neither vacant nor 
unappropriated as the patition r hath represented"; that 
those lands are the ' ' great concernment to the Inhabitants ' ' 
for "their necessary Supplies of Timber fire wood and 
Pasture" and the proprietors were already at a great 
charge in securing them with stone wall and gates; and 
that whether "ye formality es of the law binn in all the 
circumstances theirof exactly observed" can not "ration- 
ally be expected from a people soe circumstanced as the 
first planters were, by whom those matters were acted in 
the Infancy of these plantations. ' ' 12 Against this Ran- 

i° Bond, op. cit., 45. 

ii For land patents issued by Andros, see Land Warrants issued 
under Andros, 1687-1688. Publication of the Colonial Society of 
Massachusetts, Collections, II. 

12 March 7 and June 28, 1688. Bandolph Correspondences, IV: 
207, 211-213, 213-216. 


dolph maintained the illegality of their procedure and in- 
sisted that his petition be granted. He concluded : 13 

1 ' To w ch the Pet r . answereth That in case the Inhabitants of Cam- 
bridge doe produce to y r Excell ie . and y e Councill y e Royall grant to 
any person or persons of y e sayd Land peticoned for and from such 
person or persons, a legall conveyance to y e Inhabitants of ye sayd 
Town and that the sayd Town were by that name or what other name 
y e same hath bin to them granted able and sufficient in the law to 
receive a grant of such Lands Then y r pet r . will cease any further 
prosecution of his sayd prayer, Otherwise the pet r . humbly conceives 
y e Right still to remain in his Matie. and humbly prays a Grant for 
the same." 

In other words, Randolph alleged the lack of recognition 
of the royal title, the illegal conveyance, and the disability 
of the town to distribute land unless it had been incor- 
porated under the express term of the law. 

The ''Objections" of the proprietors of Nahant Neck did 
not go back to the royal charter and the colonial grant in 
so many words. They claimed that the town of Lynn was 
legally possessed of the tract of land in question in 1635, 
that it had been divided and granted by "the voate of the 
Towne" in 1656, that it had been since possessed and im- 
proved by the proprietors, and that they also purchased 
the title from the natives. 14 Randolph's position was very 
similar to that with which he had met the Cambridge pro- 
prietors. In a written reply he contended that, since there 
is no indication as to the time of the incorporation of Lynn 
and the source of the power of "receiving or disposing 
such lands ' ' and since the few men mentioned in the paper 
as handling the problem of dividing land at Lynn "were 
not ffreemen of the Corporation of Lin but inhabitants 
only in the townshipp," "their town of linn is equall to a 
village in England & no otherwise." As such, Randolph 

is March 17, 1688. Ibid., IV: 218-220. Italics are mine, 
i* March 7, 1688. Ibid., IV: 202-204. 


inferred, the town of Lynn has no power to dispose of any 
land and the proprietors of Nahant Neck have no right to 
hold land. 15 Here again, then, Randolph is dealing with 
the town as a body not legally incorporated, the status of 
which is only comparable to the village in England, and 
hence possessed of no power to grant land. 

A very similar view as that of Randolph was held by 
John Palmer, the Judge, in his "The State of New-Eng- 
land . . . " 16 After pointing out the necessity of recog- 
nizing the royal title and following the legal conveyances, 
he referred to the Andros' opinion that there was "no 
such thing amongst you as a Town ' ' and explained : 17 

' ' ' Tis not to be presum 'd, but his Discourse tended only to a Body 
Corporate and Publiek: For you generally call that a Town in 
America, where a number of People have Seated themselves together, 
yet 'tis very well known, 'tis so in Name only, not in Fact: I take 
that Body of People to be a Town, properly so called, who by some 
Act of Law, have been Incorporated, and in that sense there is no 
such thing as a Town in the Massachusetts, neither wa there a Power 
to make such before his Excellency's Arrival [that is Andros'], for 
One Corporation cannot make another.'' 

Moreover, he maintained at length that the land which had 
been granted without the Seal of the Colony is invalid, that 
Governor Andros had the right to re-grant such land with- 
in his power, and that the common and undivided lands 
are inconsistent with the ' ' Interest of new Plantations. ' ' 18 
To crown it all, the officials, including Andros, repeatedly 
declared in rough and imperious fashion that all lands in 

izlbid., IV: 205-206. Italics are mine. 

is Boston, 1690. Andros Tracts, I: 27-61. 

it Ibid., 47-48. 

is Ibid., 49-50. This case specifically referred to Col. Lidget to 
whom Andros granted a part of the common lands of Charlestown. 
See the case as represented by the proprietors of Charlestown, 
Ibid., 97-98. 


New England were the King 's, this being emphatically true 
since the revocation of the charters. Indignant at these 
assertions, the proprietors went even to the extreme of 
denying the royal title in favor of the Indian title and 
God's title. 19 

Even where the possession of land was not threatened 
the legal formalities which were necessary to make good a 
title were irksome and costly. The best illustration is that 
of Joseph Lynde, a proprietor of Charlestown. When 
Lynde traced the title of his lands back to a grant of the 
general court and to an Indian deed, Andros told him that 
it was "nothing worth if that were all" and that the sig- 
nature of Indians was of "no more worth than a scratch 
with a Bears paw." As Lynde owned several parcels of 
lands in the neighboring counties, Secretary West told him 
that he must take out as many patents as there were coun- 
ties, if not towns, involved. When the cost of this made 
him pause, a writ of intrusion upon one of his tracts was 
issued. Lynde then gave Attorney-General Graham £3 
and offered £10 in addition, with payment of court charge, 
if he would let the suit drop. Lynde was unsuccessful and 
was told that writs of intrusion would be very generally 
issued. 20 

But fortunately for the proprietors, this course of events 
came to a sudden stop in consequence of the overthrow of 
James II. at home and subsequently of Andros in America. 
A mass of contemporary evidence, including especially the 
numerous tracts to justify the revolution in Massachusetts, 
shows that Andros' land policy was one of the chief causes 
of his overthrow. 21 His attempt to revive the proprietary 
claims of the Crown and the feudal tenure of quit-rent in 
the New England colonies was as dramatic as it was futile. 

wlbid., I: 88-89, 91-92, 97-98; Bond, op. tit., 47-48. 
20 Andros Tracts, 1 : 91-93 ; Osgood, op. cit., Ill : 408. 
2i Bond, op. cit., 49. 


Though the corporate colony of Massachusetts Bay was 
replaced by a Royal Province, the grievances of the colo- 
nists were recognized in the new royal charter of 1691 which 
vested the power of dealing with the land in the General 
Court and confirmed all patents which had been issued by 
the General Court. Besides this change in the form of the 
government, one of the most important results of the An- 
dres' regime was the realization of the defects in the land 
system as it then existed. Thus, one of the very first acts 
of the reorganized Massaehustts General Court was to pass 
laws, regulating and legally incorporating both town and 
proprietors and confirming all existing common and undi- 
vided lands to the latter. 22 Henceforward, the colonies 
took absolute control of the land and the proprietors acted 
independent of any outside control. 

In New Hampshire alone of all New England colonies 
the quit-rent remained in force and all land patents regu- 
larly imposed a small amount of quit-rent. But the pro- 
prietors and inhabitants were mostly from Massachusetts 
and Connecticut where the free tenure persisted and they 
refused to pay for the greater part and no serious attempts 
seem to have been made to collect the rents. If it was 
collected, it was not universal and the amount was small. 23 
One of the chief reasons for antagonism to the New York 
grants in Vermont was the imposition of quit-rents and the 
collection of patent fees which the Green Mountain settlers 
looked upon as usurpation of their free tenure right. 


We have already noted in the preceding pages how the 
proprietors evolved themselves into organized bodies and, 

22 See above Chapter III. 

as See Bond, op. tit., 51-61. 

2* This section is an expansion, with necessary additions to cover 


as a result, how an early equality of rights gave place to an 
economic and political diversity and how the term inhabi- 
tant in nearly all New England towns came to include, not 
only the original proprietors and their successors, but also 
the ' ' non-proprietors ' ' who had no right of commonage nor 
shares in the common and undivided lands. At first the 
non-proprietors were small in number and relatively unim- 
portant, but with the lapse of time they grew rapidly and 
soon began to outclass the proprietors both in number 
and importance. On the other hand, the proprietors re- 
mained comparatively a small and fixed group and con- 
trolled the town affairs. Thus, when the former outnum- 
bered the latter, their revolt against the privileged class 
was inevitable and a collision of interests followed. 

These controversies between the proprietors and the non- 
proprietors took diverse forms and were decidedly compli- 
cated. However, a careful analysis shows that they fall 
into one of the five following types : first, the revolt of the 
non-proprietors in general; second, the cottagers' claims; 
third, the complaints against absentees; fourth, the con- 
troversy between town and proprietors ; and fifth, the tres- 
passes and encroachments on the common lands. To this 
must be added, for the sake of completeness, a sixth, the 
controversies among the proprietors themselves. 


The more general and common type of controversy was 
the revolt of the non-proprietors, or inhabitants in general, 
against the proprietors' privileges. The controversies at 
Haverhill and Newbury, Mass., furnish good illustrations. 

the other New England Colonies, of the Chapter II of my manu- 
script thesis at the University of Chicago on "The History of 
the Division of Common Lands in Massachusetts: a Study of Con- 
flicts between Proprietors and Non-Proprietors, ' ' 20-73. Many 
references are therefore omitted here. 


The township of Haverhill was originally purchased by 
a few commoners 25 and, as in other towns, they or their 
descendants claimed the exclusive rights to the common and 
undivided lands. This distinction was made early against 
the new comers, but the latter 's claim became so urgent and 
marked that the commoners, as early as 1700, began to 
take steps to protect their prized right. At the annual 
meeting of that year, the commoners ordered to discontinue 
division of land until ' ' it be known who are the proprietors 
that have liberty to vote about the disposal of land. ' ' A 
committee was appointed for that purpose and the com- 
moners' attitude toward the non-commoners was definitely 
mapped out. 26 The town, from that time onward, refused 
to act on any matter involving the proprietorship of the 
common and undivided lands 27 and the issue became purely 
between the commoners and the non-commoners. 

The strong stand of the commoners withstood the demand 
of the non-commoners for nearly twenty years. But the 
conflict was by no means ended and the first crisis came in 
1719. In that year, upward of twenty non-commoners pro- 
tested against the commoners ' monopoly of the town land 
and petitioned the selectmen to prevent the commoners 
from further dividing the common lands and to prosecute, 
at the town's cost, anybody who should encroach upon such 
lands. The selectmen refused to act but the demonstration 
induced the commoners to pass an important order, making 
"all the inhabitants of this town Proprietors in Common 
lands according to the charges they have borne in the town 

25 The term ' ' commoners ' ' was more commonly used at Haverhill 
and I have adopted it here to bring out the local color. 

2« Chase, History of Haverhill, 204r-205, 215-216. 

27 In 1702, for example, the town refused to deal with the land 
in reply to a petition of Joseph Peasely for an exchange of land. 
Ibid., 205. 


in the time of war. " 28 A committee was appointed to 
carry out the order but nothing seems to have resulted 
from this great concession. 

Early in the spring of the next year the conflict was 
resumed and the town tried to arbitrate the matter but the 
commoners dismissed the proposal as premature. The non- 
commoners then took a drastic measure to control by them- 
selves the entire power of selling and granting land and 
appointed a committee to lay out forthwith the land in 
question in fifty-acre lots. 

The non-commoners' demands, thus denying the com- 
moners' right to the common lands, may be summarized as 
follows: (1) that the territory had been originally granted 
to the inhabitants of the town in general and that the un- 
divided lands still belonged to all who are legal inhabitants 
of the town; (2) that each of such legal inhabitants is en- 
titled to "an equal interest, or proprietorship, in such 
lands"; (3) that unless steps be taken at an early date all 
such common lands will be illegally divided up among the 
commoners alone; (4) that the boundary of the Cow-Com- 
mons, which had been much reduced, should be restored 
to the original dimensions; (5) that there be immediate 
grant of land upon recognition of these principles. 

Against these claims the commoners maintained that 
they were "the heirs and assigns of the original pur- 
chasers'' and that those to whom lands had been granted 
since that time could "only claim the amount of land that 
the proprietors had specifically granted them." In other 
words, they claimed that their ancestors had purchased 
every inch of the territory and they were therefore the sole 
proprietors of it and that grants and sales which were made 
subsequent to the original purchase, by the proprietors as a 
body, did not carry with them any interest in the remaining 

as Details will be found, Ibid., 250-251. 


undivided lands, only affecting the title to the particular 
lands thus alienated. 

The controversy continued with intervals until December, 
1723, when the commoners took a more conciliatory atti- 
tude. They appointed a committee to debate the matter 
with the non-commoners and find out what would satisfy 
the latter. As a result the committee granted lands to 
thirty-nine non-commoners upon a condition that they sign 
an article to the effect that they remain contented for the 
future and that they pay certain charges to the committee 
for such division. This was a liberal concession on the part 
of the commoners, but it is important to note that the com- 
moners stood firm on the point of granting the subsequent 
right on any divisions; they never conceded this right to 
the non-commoners. Thus, no matter how great the con- 
cession was, no sooner did the commoners fully decide to 
lay out land upon this basis than the opposition broke out 

The open hostility at the annual meeting on March 2, 1725, 
was so great that the commoners, at last finding themselves 
in a miserable minority, withdrew and organized a separate 
meeting and chose a separate set of town officers. The non- 
commoners went on contending for the recovery of " their 
rights' ' in the commons "from the Incroachment of ye 
Comoners" and for petitioning and informing the General 
Court of the irregular method of the commoners. They 
elected two committees to carry out these ends. At the 
April meeting they reaffirmed their previous proceedings 
in entirety and declared that the officers previously chosen 
be supported through any difficulty which might arise in 
executing their respective duties, that the small party of 
the March meeting "was not according to the town's will, 
nor according to ye consent & former practice of our 
Town, ' ' that the former town clerk be deposed, and that the 
selectmen should prosecute to final issue any person that by 


color of election should presume to act as town officers. 
In this way the controversy went so far as to affect the 
whole political machinery of the town. 

Having come to this dead-lock in the town's life, an 
attempt to elect town officers in June, 1725, failed. The 
non-commoners then appealed to the General Court, which 
body issued a warrant, calling a town meeting for the elec- 
tion of officers. 39 This prompt and energetic action of the 
Court had the desired effect. The town met accordingly 
and completed the election of officers. From this time on 
the town and the commoners became entirely separate 
bodies and the commoners alone continued to grant, sell, 
or exchange the undivided lands. In this work the latter 
remained unchecked until 1763 when their last meeting is 
recorded. 30 

The result of the controversy at Newbury, in contrast 
to the one just described, was decidedly in favor of the non- 
proprietors. At Newbury the seed of controversy was 
planted in 1642 when the proprietors passed an order, 31 
denning their position and limiting their number to ninety- 
one and excluding all other inhabitants of the town from 
any right or title to any part of the common lands. This 
order, while the inhabitants of the town were few and the 
demand for land was not so urgent, was merely a group of 

2 9 Mass. Acts and Eesolves, X : 585. 

so In 1736 a general division of all common meadows was made 
among the commoners exclusively, according to the original grants. 
Evidently the non-commoners did not get any fruit of the contro- 

31 Dec. 7, 1642 : • " ... the persons only above mentioned are 
acknowledged to be freeholders by the town and to have a propor- 
tionable right in all waste lands, commons, and rivers undisposed of 
and such as by, from, or under them or their heyers have bought, 
granted, or purchases from them or any of them theyr right and 
title there unto and none else." Newbury Proprietors' Records, 
I: 44#. 


words insignificantly written on the record book. But as the 
inhabitants grew in number, the demand for land became 
urgent and the possession of even a small tract of land be- 
came highly valued. Consequently this paper vote began 
to assert itself. As early as 1679 and 1680, the proprietors, 
aware of the value of their commons, attempted to devise 
a plan to divide them among themselves but failed because 
there was deep-seated dissatisfaction among the non-pro- 
prietors who also made several attempts to own and occupy 
the commons equally with the proprietors. Four years 
later, in 1684, the proprietors finally decided to carry out 
the division and appointed a committee to agree upon a 
rule of division. The committee, remembering the agita- 
tions among the non-proprietors during the previous years, 
attempted a compromise in favor of the latter class and 
reported that the non-proprietors also should get some 
shares in the division. 33 The proprietors protested against 
such a proposal and postponed further proceedings upon 
the previous vote. 

The discontent among the non-proprietors continued for 
two years when they formulated their demand in a written 
protest : 33 

' ' We think it hard to be deprived of the right of commonage. We 
pay according to our property as much as you freeholders for the 
support of public worship, the support of schools, the repairing of 
the roads, and our equal proportion of all other taxes, and some of 

32 They pleaded that, of the 6000 acres of the upper common to 
be divided, 5000 acres be divided among the proprietors and the 
remaining 1000 acres to be proportioned among non-proprietors and 
soldiers. It will be seen that the final settlement went further than 
this concession. 

33 The freeholders in Newbury were same as the proprietors. 
"A freeholder was one, who either by grant, purchase, or inheri- 
tance, was entitled to a share in all the common and undivided 
lands.' ' Coffin, Sketch of the Town of Newoury, 146. 


us has served as soldiers for your defense, and yet you have right 
and privileges, of which we are deprived.'' 

The controversy was now beginning to touch the heart of 
town's civil, economic, and even religious life. Conse- 
quently, some of the rich freeholders realized the serious- 
ness of the problem and assisted the non-proprietors in 
partially accomplishing their object. On March 23, 1686, 
the meeting of ' ' the freemen and the freeholders ' ' 34 estab- 
lished a rule of division by which each freeholder was to 
have twenty acres of land laid out. This excluded the non- 
freeholders and the complaints were made in the following 
month. A meeting was called anew in May and a com- 
mittee was appointed to "agree upon a meet way of divid- 
ing the commons." This committee worked laboriously 
for five months, trying to end the whole matter peacefully, 
and reported its agreement on October 20th. The meeting 
approved of the report and voted that 6000 acres in the 
upper common be divided as follows : 3000 acres among the 
proprietors in equal shares ; remaining 3000 acres ' ' among 
all such inhabitants of this town and freeholders as have 
paid rates two years last past, proportionable to what each 
man paid by rate to the minister's rate in the year 1685." 
The division was made accordingly and the controversy 
came to an end with this great concession. 35 

34 At Newbury, it may be noted, the land questions were dis- 
cussed at the town meeting by the " freemen and freeholders" to- 
gether which made it very difficult to agree. It shows that in the 
early days, the town and the proprietors were practically same. 

35 The radical party of the proprietors was dissatisfied with this 
great concession and made several protests. On Jan. 26, 1688, nine 
of them drew up a protest against what they termed "the injurious 
and unreasonable dealing of some invading, and disposing of the 
town's commons" and declared that "whatever is already done to 
the dividing and proportioning our commons may be made void and 
nulled. ' ' Nothing resulted from these demonstrations and the divi- 
sions were carried out peacefully in 1686, 1702, and 1708. 


A similar controversy at Duxbury, Mass., was short and 
not so hotly contested but the non-proprietors' demands 
are worth quoting. When the proprietors and the town, 
the latter being under the influence of the former, proceeded 
to divide the common lands, upward of twenty-seven non- 
proprietors drew up a remonstrance, strongly protesting 
against such an action. A central thought in their com- 
plaints was the equality of right and they maintained that 
all lands in the township are intended to "all the inhabi- 
tants," admitted by the town and holding some freeholds 
by purchase or gift "and are not excluded by the act of 
the General Court." In thus completely denying the pro- 
prietors exclusive right the remonstrance put forward three 
reasons: (1) "Because the common lands were never 
granted to the owners of the Court grants, but to the in- 
habitants of the town ... in perpetual succession, and 
not to particular persons"; (2) "Because it can by no 
means be made to appear who had Court grants, and the 
quantity of land granted" as there is no record of the same ; 
and (3) because "the said action and resolutions referred 
to in the second article above was never accepted or allowed 
or approbated by any vote of the said town but suspended 
further consideration and entered into record without 
town's order, thereby making it "null and void." 36 This 
is a typical case of the nullification on the part of the non- 

The non-proprietors' defiance of the proprietors at Bill- 
erica, Mass., had a more fortunate result. It finally drifted 
into the General Court and their petition is equally sugges- 
tive of the nature of their complaints. In the preamble 
the petitioners stated that they represent the great bulk of 
the people who have been many years inhabitants of the 
town ; that they paid their full proportion of rates, taxes, 

38 Old Records of the Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts, 1642- 
1770, 199-200. See also 203, 208, 210, etc. 


and charges with their neighbors who were the first pro- 
prietors ; and that now they are to be excluded from sharing 
in a division of the common lands. This last action of the 
proprietors seemed to the petitioners "against all justice 
and equity" and they prayed for redress. The action 
of the Court was favorable to the petitioners, the order 
reading : 37 

li . . . the petitioners that are Freeholders and Inhabitants of 
the said town of Bilrica, be Instituted and have a proportionable 
share with others, the Common Proprietors and Inhabitants of the 
said Town, in all future divisions of all undivided and Waste lands 
belonging to said Town, according to the proportion to the Town 
charges, for the space of seven years past. ' ' 

Similar controversies were also common in Connecticut. 
The non-proprietors' claims at New London were "pro- 
tracted and acrimonious. ' ' The matter was finally referred 
to the General Court by petitions and the proprietary right 
was upheld, barring the non-proprietors from it forever. 38 
In the division of 1754 at Hartford, the "ancient proprie- 
tors" and their successors were disturbed by the inhabitant 
non-proprietors and their claims were only established after 
a prolonged legal suit. 30 The controversy at Windsor also 
resulted in a proprietors' victory. 40 In every one of these 
cases and in others as well, 41 the non-proprietors' claims 

37 Mass. Acts and Resolves, VIII: 122, 148. The proprietors 
appealed with complaints but they did not get any remedy. Ibid., 
VIII: 179, 199, 201. 

38 Mead, op. tit., 66-68 ; Caulkins, History of New London, 263. 

39 Love, Colonial History of Hartford, gives the controversy in 
detail with necessary source materials. 

40 Connecticut Archives, Towns and Lands, Mss., VI : 67 ; VII : 
109, 110, 111, 116#. 

« See for example, Ibid., II: 258, 268; Conn. Col. Bee, X: 332; 
Records of the Original Proprietors of the Town of Union, Mss. 
(hereafter cited as Union Proprietors' Records, Mss.), 24, 40-41, 
130, 135, 154, 156, 175; Larned, History of Wmdham County, I: 
156, 214;/. 


were similar in fundamental principles to those of the 
Massachusetts controversies and no repetition is necessary 
here. In practically every case in Connecticut the pro- 
prietors won out. The proprietors of Providence, R. L, 
were much more conciliatory toward the cause of their rival 
claimants and, in addition to granting full proprietary 
rights to the "new comers," the proprietors also granted 
twenty-five acres with "right of commoning" to each of 
the non-proprietors who came to be called the "Quarter 
Right Men." 42 


The "cottagers," sometimes known as "squatters," 
formed a distinct class among the non-proprietors and their 
claims mark the earliest protest against the proprietors 
and their privilege. The cottagers were usually received 
into towns with a right to build a cottage upon some bit 
of waste land, usually common and undivided lands, but 
without any recognition of proprietary right therein. In 
some towns they were granted house lots to be held during 
the town's pleasure. 43 In general they were less well-to- 
do and in many cases were working men or servants whose 
thrift alone enabled them to build their cottages. Some 
even acquired a freehold by patient industry in the older 
towns but their struggle in the beginning was hard and 
miserable. By paying a small amount of rent, often by 
produce or by service, they usually received and enjoyed 
certain rights of commonage, for example to wood, turf, 
and pasture; they often cultivated in common a certain 
portion of the arable lands and gathered hay from certain 
common meadow. In other words, they built cottages and 

4 2 Dorr, Providence Proprietors. 

43 See for example, Salem. Adams, Village Communities of Cape 
Anne and Salem, 65. 


lived and worked mostly on the commons, but had no right 
of ownership in them. 44 

The cottagers were poor and powerless at first, but they 
gradually grew in strength, both in number and wealth, 
and, already living on the commons, began to assert their 
admittance to the proprietary privilege. Their claims are 
obvious under the circumstances: they wanted, first, to 
gain complete title to the land upon which they lived and 
had already built their houses, and, secondly, to gain 
right of commonage by reason of having houses and lands. 
The history of their struggle is the history of the steps by 
which they gained these claims. 

The earliest agitation of this class is to be found in Mai- 
den, Mass. There the cottagers asserted their claims as 
early as 1651, when an agreement was made between 
Charlestown and the settlers of Maiden that the right of 
commonage in the latter place should be limited to the 
existing number of dwelling houses. The cottagers' cause 
at Ipswich was somewhat more bitterly fought out and the 
controversy continued until 1660 when, getting no conces- 
sion from the proprietors, the cottagers petitioned the Gen- 
eral Court. The General Court acted favorably toward the 
petitioners but itself being strongly tinged with proprie- 
tary color, denied the right for the future cottagers. This 
decision found its expression in the form of an Order which 
was passed on May 30, 1660. 45 It declared : 

"It is ordered, that hereafter no cottage or dwelling place shallbe 
admitted to the privileg of comonage for wood, timber, & herbage, 
or any other the privileges that lye in comon in any toune or peculjar, 
but such as already are in being or hereafter shallbe erected by the 
consent of the toune. ' ' 

44 The institution of cottagers was not universal, even in Massa- 
chusetts. Its existence seems to have been limited to the coast 
town where poor immigrants first appeared. 

« Mass, Col. Bee, IV, Pt. 1, 417. 


This order was confirmed and incorporated into an "Act 
for regulating townships ..." in 1692. 46 It marks the first 
important concession to the cottagers as well as the non-pro- 
prietor element and also the first legislation on the cottagers 
in Massachusetts; it incidentary forms the basis of all 
future settlements. 

As to the subsequent movement, Salem furnishes a typical 
example, although there were other instances equally inter- 
esting. 47 At Salem we can trace at least two distinct stages 
of the controversies : the one ending in 1702 and the other 
ending in 1714. 

The cottagers in Salem, originally poor and landless, but 
now mostly possessed of a small holding by thrift and pur- 
chases, grew in number during the second half of the seven- 
teenth century. They were also strengthened by the "new 
comers, " 48 a more or less wealthier class which had pressed 
into the village communities of Massachusetts and which, 
by reason of its wealth, had obtained lands, although, like 
the cottagers, they were kept out of the proprietary right 
altogether. These gradually formed a strong party, so 
strong that, toward the close of the century, they even 
began to overthrow the proprietors and the descendants of 
the old comers and control the town meetings. Thus the 
proprietors, better known as commoners in Salem, began to 
break away as early as 1678 "from the restraint of the 
town as to the regulation of their territory ' ' ; while the non- 
proprietors attempted to organize according to the law of 

46 Nov. 16, 1692. Mass. Acts and Resolves, I: 65. 

47 See for example the cases at Cambridge and Worcester, Mass. 
Lincoln, History of Worcester, Massachusetts, to 1836, 45-46; Rec- 
ords of the "Proprietors" of Worcester, Massachusetts (hereafter 
cited as Worcester Proprietors' Records), 60-62, 64, 220-221; Cam- 
bridge Proprietors' Records, 167; Corey, History of Maiden, Massa- 
chusetts, 1633-1785, 368, 370. 

* 8 See Adams, Village Communities of Cape Anne and Salem, 67#\ 


1660 but the selectmen positively prohibited such a meeting 
as disorderly. 

The old comers and the commoners in Salem seem always 
to have constituted the dominant element in the town meet- 
ings and controlled the machinery of the local government. 
With the rise of the cottagers and the new comers the new 
element was asserting itself to control that old aristocratic 
village town. The commoners were conscious of this fact, 
as well as the growing dissatisfaction of the cottagers, and 
passed the following important act in 1702 : 

"For ye incouragement and growth of this town, that all free- 
holders of this town, viz., every one yt hath a dwelling house and 
land of his own proper estate in fee simple, shall have and is hereby 
admitted unto ye privilege of commonage. ' ' 

This meant that all cottagers who had possessed lands and 
dwelling houses built prior to 1702 were admitted to the 
full privilege of commoners' right, forming the second 
stage in the cottagers' climb. 49 

The cottagers' demonstrations did not end here, however, 
and the next great concession came in 1714. In 1713 the 
commoners tried to organize themselves according to the 
Province Law of that year, but they again faced the cot- 
tagers' opposition. In that year there was a renewed agi- 
tation among some of the cottagers. They were evidently 
those who had failed to obtain their right by the order of 
1702. Notwithstanding the impediment of this kind, the 
commoners organized themselves on Nov. 16, 1713, 50 and, 
continuing the attitude of good will, appointed a committee 

49 Although the Act of 1660 was local in its application, it 
was practiced at Salem and virtually took the place of the first 

50 For the obstruction of the proprietors ' meeting by the non- 
proprietors and cottagers, see Salem Commoners' Records, Essex 
Institute Historical Collections, XXXVI: 162-168. 


to receive the claims of such as make out their rights ac- 
cording to the Province Law of 1660 and the Town Law of 
1702 and also to consider, among other things, "such per- 
sons further as they judge should be admitted to a right in 
the common land." 

This committee, not only received the claims and ad- 
mitted 941 cottagers, but also reported on Nov. 22, 1714, an 
important measure which was immediately approved at the 
commoners' meeting. The new document, among other 
things, declared that the period in which to receive the 
claims of those who have neglected to bring in such claims 
be extended to a longer space; "that all dwelling houses 
built in the town of Salem since the year 1702 . . . are 
admitted to and alowed a right in the common lands in 
Salem"; that 400 acres of the commons be reserved for the 
further and later claimants above named ; and that there be 
a division of the commons on this new basis. The principle 
thus defined was actually carried out 01 and, although con- 
troversies occurred from time to time, the same principle of 
concession on the part of the commoners settled the diffi- 
culty peacefully ever since. 


The system of absenteeism was almost universal, but its 
evils were not felt in the seventeenth century as much as 
in the eighteenth century. The principal reason for this 
is that the number of non-resident proprietors was small 
in the earlier years, whereas it increased with leaps and 
bounds with the coming of land speculation in the eight- 
eenth century. We shall have occasion to consider the 
absentee proprietors and their relations to the troubled sub- 
ject of delinquency later at a proper place ; here we may 

51 One hundred and ninety-one odd cottagers were admitted before 
1722. Ibid., XXXVII: 110-121 for such a list. 


note the general nature of the non-proprietors' complaints 
against the practice. 

One of the earliest cases of the non-proprietors' defiance 
against the absentee proprietors is that of Braintree, Mass. 
Most of the land in Braintree was held by the wealthy pro- 
prietors in Boston and the long controversy culminated 
into a crisis in 1698. In that year the question of the un- 
divided lands in Braintree became very vexatious and sixty- 
nine freeholders of the town, in January, formally cove- 
nanted one with the other to defend their "ancient Rights 
& oppose in a course of Law, those, and all those that shall 
by any means disturbe, molest, or indeavor to dispossesse" 
any part of their land ; and they promised to bear as a com- 
mon burden all charges which might arise out of the law 
suits in this connection. Following this declaration of 
independence against the absenteeism, actual evidence of 
legal proceedings is found in Braintree records. 52 

This determined attitude brought about a favorable de- 
velopment on the part of the absentee proprietors in the 
form of a compromise. On Jan. 26, 1700, a body of Brain- 
tree freeholders agreed to purchase all the waste lands 
within the town limit from the Boston claimants for £700. 
In order to prevent effectively a repetition of absentee ex- 
perience, it was at the same time further agreed in a public 
meeting that no purchaser of these lands should make any 
conveyance of them to any outsiders "thereby to let them 
have a foothold or interest in ye Purchase or any other 
way. ' ' 53 The purchase money was raised by voluntary 
subscription through the effort of an association consisting 
of one hundred inhabitants of Braintree, and the Boston 
claims were finally extinguished and the absentee proprie- 
torship was swept away. 

52 For example, Eecords of the Town of Braintree, 1640-1793 
(hereafter cited as Braintree Town Records), 94, 99, 101, 138, etc. 
ss Ibid., 44. 


In Lancaster, Mass., the evil of absenteeism was recog- 
nized early and the town, acting in the interest of the in- 
habitants, in 1657, barred the absentee proprietors from 
any right and privilege in the town. The reasons set forth 
were four-fold: (1) that the forfeiture of the right of the 
original proprietors who refused to become residents pre- 
vents many of the best lots of the town from remaining in 
the hands of absentees and unsettled; (2) that it is neces- 
sary that the first settlers should dwell close together, while 
the absentee proprietors break up this arrangement of de- 
fense; (3) that the absentee proprietors profit by speculat- 
ing on the rise of the price of land without sharing in the 
toil and danger of actual improvement; and (4) that they 
cause disorderly conditions in the town life often by sending 
men of loose habit and evil character to cultivate their 

The reasons for discontent are clearly brought out in the 
petition of the inhabitants of Deerfield, Mass., addressed to 
the General Court, March 3, 1678. It stated among other 
things : 

"You may be pleased to know the very principle & best of the 
land; the best soile; the best for situation; as lying in ye centre & 
midle of the town; & as to quantity, nere half, belongs unto eight 
or 9 proprietors each and every of which, are never like to come to a 
settlement amongst us ; which we have formerly found grievous & doe 
Judge for the future will be found intolerable if not altered .... 
Or minister ... & we ourselves are much discouraged as judging 
the Plantation will be spoiled if thes proprietors may not be begged, 
or will not be bought up on very easy terms outt of their Eight. But 
as long as the maine of the plantation lies in menls hands that can't 
improve it themselves, neither are like to putt such tenants outo it as 
shall be likely to advance the good of ye place in Civil or Sacred 
Bespects; We, ourselves, and all others that think of going to it, are 
much discouraged . • . ." 


The petition was referred to a committee but nothing im- 
portant resulted therefrom. 54 

Another petition to the General Court enumerated the 
following sources of trouble: (1) that they, the non-resi- 
dent proprietors, did not settle upon their rights; (2) that 
they have not sent any others to settle there; (3) that they 
have neglected to pay their part of the charge for the sup- 
port of the minister, (4) that they neglected to pay the 
charges for the other necessary expenses of the said town. 55 

Even in these few cases, if we read between lines, we can 
clearly see that several important principles of early town 
life were involved in the difficulties over the absentee pro- 
prietors. These principles may be summarized as follows : 
that the land must be occupied, settled, and improved by 
the owner thereof or his appointee ; that the toil and effort 
of settlement, both in building and maintenance, must be 
borne equally by the owner with the actual settlers ; 56 that 
the ownership of the town lands, not the actual settlement or 
appearance in town alone, should be the basis of taxation; 
and that the peace and welfare of the town must be main- 
tained by the unification of town life, through the correla- 
tion and cooperation of all who are connected with the town. 


As was noted in the earlier chapters, the town and the 
proprietors were the same in the earlier years and their 
respective rights with regard to the common lands remained 
loose and ambiguous in many towns, even after the organi- 
se For subsequent conflict, see Sheldon, History of Deer field, I : 
193-194 ;Mass. Col. Bee, V: 209. 

ss The petition of the inhabitants of the Narragansett Township 
No. 2, now Westminster. Nothing resulted. Mass. Acts and Re- 
solves, XIV: 292. 

5 6 This is significant in the light of dangers from Indians in the 
frontier towns. 


zation of the proprietors as a separate body. This lack of 
distinction between town and proprietors caused much con- 
troversy when the latter asserted their exclusive right over 
the common and undivided lands. 

The town of Northampton, Mass., always claimed the 
right to order all land divisions, while the proprietors 
asserted that it was their right and the two bodies were 
like oil and water for many years. The crisis arrived in 
1742 when the town took a definite action. In January of 
that year, the town meeting discussed the land question at 
length and went on record : 

"Whereas there has been a Controversie long Subsisting between 
the Town and proprietors respecting their Rights to the Undivided 
Lands Near the Body of the Town, Town Voted to Choose three 
Wise, Judicious persons to advise between them with respect to their 
Rights to the Lands above said and also to their right of Cutting 
of wood, Timber, &c, on the Lots laid out. ' ' 

Then it went further and empowered this committee "to 
provide an attorney at the cost and charge of the town to 
manage the cause on behalf of the town and defend their 
right." No further proceeding is known. Next year the 
town again took up the matter and reached a compromise. 
The town gained control of a certain portion of the com- 
mon lands for the space of ten years and at the same time 
voted "to quit, release, and relinquish to the respective pro- 
prietors all the rights and liberty to cut wood and timber. ' ' 
There was great rejoicing 57 on account of this settlement 

57 A letter of Edwards, written in 1753, is often quoted: "And it 
is a thing greatly to be rejoiced in that the people very lately have 
come to an agreement and final issue, with respect to their grand 
controversy, relating to their common lands; which has been, above 
any other particular thing, a source of mutual prejudice, jealousies, 
and debates, for 15 or 16 years past. ' ' Quoted in Trumbull, History 
of Northampton, II: 95, foot note. 


and the matter rested quietly for ten years when, in 1754, 
another crisis was reached. 

In 1754 the town reasserted its ' ' right to all lands within 
the bounds of the town of Northampton ' ' which were not 
yet divided. It then chose a committee and boldly pro- 
ceeded without even consulting the proprietors to devise 
some method of dividing the lands thus claimed. It even 
voted to commence suits to recover all the lands alluded to 
in the above vote because some proprietors had of late years 
"without right entered and taken possession of some parts 
of said lands" and another committee was appointed to 
carry out the measure. In May it went further and pro- 
ceeded to prosecute the trespassers, thus taking over practi- 
cally all the functions of the proprietors into their own 
hands. The proprietors, through the help of some of the 
town officers, tried in August to revoke all these alleged 
illegal proceedings of the town but failed, and in the fol- 
lowing month we find the town bringing up actual law suits. 
The controversy drifted on until 1756 when certain four 
square miles were reserved for the inhabitants for ten 
years and the town finally "released and quitclaimed ' ' all 
its rights to the common lands. Thereafter the proprietors 
remained the unlimited master of their common and undi- 
vided lands. 

In Plymouth, Mass., where the town had entire jurisdic- 
tion over the common lands in early days, there was similar 
trouble. In 1766, when the matter of calling the proprie- 
tors' meeting was questioned, the town appointed a com- 
mittee to investigate and its report shows a complete denial 
of proprietors ' power over the sheep pasture which was in 
question. 58 In supporting this claim, the report reasoned, 
among other things, that the town disposed of the common 

58 The full report is in the Records of the Town of Plymouth, 
1636-1783 (hereafter cited as Plymouth Town Records), III: 178- 


lands as it thought fit till 1704 and would have done so ever 
since if it did not exclude itself therefrom, that the proprie- 
tors derive their power from the town by virtue of the town 
grant, that no part of the commons was granted to them 
that was settled before by a town vote, that the proprietors 
assented to this principle at their first meeting in 1704 and 
also in 1716, and that the proprietors called the division of 
1711-12 as their last division thereby renouncing all other 
subsequent claims. A committee was immediately ap- 
pointed "to take proper steps to prevent encroachment on 
it and to plan some method of future improvement of it 
for the town's better advantage." No further procedure 
in the controversy, nor any further prosecution of the pro- 
prietors ' claim, remain on the record ; evidently this strong 
stand on the part of the town overruled the proprietors. 

In Woburn, Mass, in 1741, the town attempted to nullify 
the distinction between the proprietors of common lands 
and the other inhabitants of the town and to prosecute the 
proprietors' committee as intruders in making divisions of 
those lands from time to time under what the town called 
their pretended right. The attempt, however, completely 
failed due mainly to the decree of the General Court which 
was passed nearly seventy years earlier, recognizing the 
proprietary right. 59 

The controversy at Suffield, Conn., was interesting. 
There the town had complete power over the common lands 
until 1712 60 when it renounced that right in favor of the 
proprietors by a resolution. 61 Nevertheless, the town pro- 
ceeded to exercise that renounced right and granted lands 
to the inhabitants, without consulting the proprietors, on 

59 The decree referred to is in Mass. Col. Bee, IV, Pt, 2, 354-356. 
eo Sheldon, Documentary History of Suffield, 170, 188. 
ei Passed on March 31, 1712. IUd., 172. 


two occasions, March 25 and April 2, 1713. 62 An inevitable 
opposition to these proceedings broke out among the pro- 
prietors. After a fruitless negotiation with the town, the 
proprietors, on March 22, 1714, nullified the town's action 
and declared that there should be no record made of the 
land granted previously by the town. 63 The conflict 
dragged on without result until the next year when, in 
August, the proprietors made a fresh protest. The town 
finally suggested the termination of the difficulty by the 
court and the case was heard in the County Court. 64 The 
Court, after going over the facts of the case, annulled all the 
town's proceedings on Jan. 10, 1716, and the conflict saw 
a peaceful end. 65 

In Simsbury, Conn., as early as 1672, a controversy arose 
as to whether the "uplands" belonged to the original pro- 
prietors or to the town. The town claimed the right and 
a division was made by its vote in 1672 ; similar divisions 
were also voted in 1680 and 1688 and 1698, against all of 
which the proprietors protested ineffectually. The ques- 
tion again arose in 1719, when a committee appointed for 
the purpose reported and the town voted 

"that the right of disposal of the common or undivided lands in 
the township of Simsbury is, and shall be, vested in all such, and 
in them only, who can derive their power so to do either from an act 
of the General Assembly and their heirs and assigns, or those who 
have been admitted inhabitants and their heirs and assigns, by a 
major part of the town regularly convened, or shall be hereafter 
admitted inhabitants with that right and power of disposal expressly 
inserted in the town's vote for admission. " 

wibid., 177, 178-181. Another attempt was made later on May 
14, 1714. Ibid., 187-188. 

™Ibid., 185-186. 

e* Ibid., 189, 190. 

6 5 Ibid., 194-195, 178, foot note. Another grant was made by 
the town while the Court was considering the question but failed 
on account of the Court's decision. Ibid., 192, 


After voting to divide the land, the town added "that the 
remaining land be sequestered to the town, qualified as 
above, to be granted as the major part shall allow of, said 
major part to be accounted by a true list of the ratable 
estate." To this action of the town the proprietors pro- 
tested again in vain. The town, possessing the numerical 
strength, continued to grant the undivided lands until the 
action of the General Court sustained the contention of 
the proprietors, after which the remaining common lands 
were managed and divided exclusively by the proprietors. 68 
In Falmouth, Maine, the proprietors and the town were 
in hostility from the town's incorporation in 1718. In 
1728, the town voted to admit new inhabitants with shares 
in the common lands upon payment of £10 to the town's 
treasurer. 67 The proprietors protested and petitioned the 
General Court for relief. Among other things, the peti- 
tion maintained 68 that 

"it can't be Meant that all the Inhabitants that were not before 
Proprietors were thereby made Prop r s: or that the Inhabitants in a 
Town Meeting were thereby enabled to Vote in and settle nifty 
Proprietors of the Common & undivided Lands throughout the Town. ' ' 

And it continued: 

"But the plain sense is as We Most humbly conceive, that, the 
Inhabitants shall have Town meetings & Aet as a Town, and the 
Proprietors shall have their Meetings . . ." 

66 Phelps, History of Simsbury, Grariby and Canton, 1642-1845, 
80-81-82; Mead, op. cit., 66. 

67 Willis, History of Portland, 329, 330, 331, Appendix, 890-892. 
In 1718 the General Court gave right to the proprietors to admit 
50 families but the town took it upon itself so to do. 

^Documentary History of Maine, X (Baxter Manuscripts), 421- 
423, 423-427. 


Getting no relief immediately, the rival meetings 69 wrangled 
against each other until 1731, when the superior court at 
Boston, in deciding one of the cases in controversy, estab- 
lished the right of the proprietors instead of the town. 70 


One of the difficult tasks in every town was the regulation 
of the felling of timber on the common lands. This was 
important and required serious attention because there 
was a genuine dread of losing the supply of wood and be- 
cause the town sought both to limit the destruction of tim- 
ber and to confine the benefit and privilege to their own 
inhabitants. 71 Accordingly the timber and also stones and 
gravel on the common lands were valued highly and were 
from an early date carefully guarded. In many cases the 
town itself had full jurisdiction over the task, where the 
town had charge of granting land ; while in others the pro- 
prietors claimed and exercised their right over it in con- 
junction with their power to deal with their common and 
numerous evaders of town or proprietary rules, the so- 
undivided lands. Because of these policies there appeared 
called trespassers and encroachers; they utilized the com- 
mon lands for timber and stone without due permission 
obtained from the proper authorities. These "silent in- 
vaders," indeed, were the source of constant troubles in 
nearly all proprieties. 

As in the case of the division of lands, the protection of 
trees and stones in the common lands was not so urgent an 

69 See the Journals of Bev. Thomas Smith, 67-68, for some de- 
scription of these stormy scenes at the rival meetings. 

?o Documentary History of Mair^e, XI {Baxter Manuscripts), 
177-179, 179-181; Willis, op. cit., 331-336. The former gives some 
law suits. 

7 iWeeden, Economic and Social History of New England, I: 60. 


affair at first. The whole question blazed up into flame 
only as the population increased and the inhabitants began 
to build and expand. The evil of trespasses was thus taken 
cognizance of early by the colonial governments. The 
Massachusetts Act of 1693 decreed that the proprietors and 
freeholders alone have the right of feeding horse or horse 
kind in the common lands 72 and during the ensuing year 
it was ordered that they alone have right to use trees there- 
in. 73 In 1698 a more elaborate law was enacted, forbidding 
the inhabitants to carry away timber from the common 
lands without license under pain of forfeiture and fine — 20 
shillings each for trees of one foot or over in circumference 
and 10 shillings each for smaller. 74 The Act of 1722, not 
only confirmed the same principle, but went further and 
doubled the fine and also prohibited the taking of stones, 
gravel, clay, etc., under penalty of forfeiture and payment 
of treble damages or a sum not exceeding £5. 75 Similar 
acts which followed provided for even more severe methods 
of prosecution. 76 In Connecticut the first legislation upon 
this subject also dates from 1693, when penalties were 
defined minutely for all trespasses upon enclosed common 
lands without leave of the proprietors in possession. 77 
Then followed a series of laws, all laying down principles 
similar to those of the Massachusetts Bay Government; 
the proprietors were even empowered to bring suits against 
trespassers to order to guard their lands. 78 While these 
laws barred the non-proprietors from the use of timbers 
and stones in the common lands, the proprietors, in their 

72 Mass. Acts and Besolves, I: 138. 

nibid., I: 156. 

•"Ibid., I: 324-325. 

™Ibid., II: 300-302. 

ttlbid., II: 383-385; 424-425; etc. 

" Conn. Col. Bee, IV: 99. 

78 Ibid., VI: 449-450; VII: 34, 80-81, 199, 405, 519; etc. 


turn, were required to maintain the common lands well 
fenced so as to keep out the trespassers, and the office of 
fence-viewers was common in nearly all New England 
towns. 79 

The proprietors' action against such trespasses and en- 
croachments is typified by that of Watertown, Mass., where 
the proprietors' records are full of votes and executions 
with regard to these silent invaders. As early as 1714, and 
during succeeding years, the proprietors chose special com- 
mittees ''to maintain and defend" their "right in the 
common and undivided lands and to prosecute in the law 
such as have of late encroached upon it or got into posses- 
sion illegally." The full expense in this work was paid by 
the proprietary treasury. 80 They even went so far as to 
"represent themselves in any court or town meeting to 
preserve and defend their right." Their records show 
that a special committee of this kind was active for over 
twenty years, always finding plenty to do against the elu- 
sive silent invaders. 81 It may be added that this type of 
controversy rarely broke out into an open conflict ; the tres- 
passers and encroachers were merely silent intruders upon 
the proprietary domain. 

Similar action of the proprietors may be read on almost 
every page of the Dorchester Town Records. 82 Complaints 
of trespasses on the common lands, especially of cutting 
woods, grasses, and hay, were constantly made at Buxton, 

79 The Massachusetts Act of 1698 provided that fences of the 
commons should be maintained by proprietors "according to their 
interest therein." Mass. Acts and Resolves, I: 333-335. See also 
Mass. Col. Bee, II: 39, 49, 195, etc. Conn. Col. Bee, IV: 346; V: 
234, 403; VII: 309, 379, 408, 467: VIII: 166, 168; etc. Mass. 
Acts and Besolves, Conn. Col. Bee, and B. I. Col. Bee, are full of 
such resolutions. See Index. 

so Watertown Proprietors' Becords, 151, 152, passim. 

8 ilbid., passim; see especially 180-181. 

82 Dorchester Town, Becords, 1632-1691, especially 27-43, 75-78. 


Maine, and, besides appointing special committees from 
time to time, stringent regulations were passed; even pro- 
secutions were repeatedly commenced against the offenders 
but the wood kept on disappearing. 83 The problem of tres- 
pass was even more serious at Wenham, Mass., and the 
result of proprietary actions was just as discouraging. 84 
At Salem the proprietors took drastic measures in prosecut- 
ing silent invaders for wood, timber, stones, etc., and im- 
posed penalties as ordered by the Act of 1698. 85 At Wor- 
cester not only timber and stones were protected but also 
the feeding of cattle or horses belonging to non-proprietors 
was prohibited in the common lands under penalty of three 
shillings for each animal. 86 In Connecticut towns the diffi- 
culty was just as great and the proprietors undertook 
similar measures. 87 

The proprietary efforts to check trespasses and encroach- 
ments are universal and examples might be given indefi- 
nitely. 88 The above few examples, however, will suffice to 
bring out the; nature of this type of trouble. The encroach- 

83 Narragansett No. 1 Proprietors' Records, 101, 104, 138-139, 145, 
146-147, 149, 153, 180, 182, 190, 259, eto. See also 120, 148, 266, 
270, 271, 274, etc. 

s* Allen, History of Wenham, 49-50. 

85 Salem Commoners' Records, Essex Institute Historical Collec- 
tions, XXXVII: 107-108, 122-123, 142-145. 

86 Early Records of the Town of Worcester, 1722-1753 (hereafter 
cited as Worcester Town Records), Bk. I: 35, 38, 51, etc. The pen- 
alty was later raised to 5 shillings. Ibid., 89, 90. 

87 Saybrook Proprietors ' Eecords, Mss., 137, 138; Chester Pro- 
prietors' Records, Mss., 53, 39; Union Proprietors' Records, Mss., 
108; Connecticut Archives, Industry, Mss., I: 12, 13, 19. 

88 Upper Housatonnock Proprietors' Records, Mss., 38, 44; Lower 
Housatonnock Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 347, 348; Records of 
the Proprietors of Lunenburg, Massachusetts, 1729-1833 (hereafter 
cited as Lunenburg Proprietors' Records), 195 et passim; Braintrte 
Town Records, almost on every page, especially 85, 90, 120-121, 128, 
136 etc. 


merits and trespasses in almost all cases were typified by 
silent invasions of the proprietary right and privilege; 
there were no arguments advanced and no open contro- 
versies resulted as in the other types, and even stringent 
laws were powerless in terminating the infringements upon 
the proprietors' rights. In this respect these silent in- 
vaders differed from the other kind of invaders to which 
reference was made on a previous page. 


The complaints with respect to the common and undi- 
vided lands were by no means confined to the non-proprie- 
tors alone. There were also numerous controversies, dis- 
putes, and confusions among the proprietors themselves. 

More commonly the controversies were due to the in- 
equality of shares held and the consequent inequality or 
unfairness in the division of common lands. In Groton, 
Mass., the inequality of proprietary rights was remarkable, 
differing from five to fifty acres rights. A certain Prescott 
in the same town possessed, by process of descent and pur- 
chase, nearly 300 acres rights, or more than one-third of all 
the common lands. 89 This difference in shares held 
became much more marked during the eighteenth century 
when the speculative spirit crept into the proprietary 
transactions. And when we remember that the voting was 
made on the basis of acre rights or shares held, we can 
easily see the situation at the time of any division. Besides, 
it would be almost impossible to do justice to all when a 
small right descended to a large number of heirs and as- 
signs, in which case the fractions were often so small that 
they were not worth the trouble of looking after them. 
The true owners of these small rights, especially after a 
lapse of time, would be difficult to trace out. Thus, due 

8» Butler, History of the Town of Groton, 26-27, 32. 


mainly to such inequalities and to the vagueness of pro- 
prietary rights, there arose many controversies among the 
proprietors themselves, as, for example, at Groton. When 
the owners of certain rights did not receive their propor- 
tional legal rights in the division of the common and un- 
divided lands they protested. There are, thus, numerous 
complaints of this kind recorded in their records. 90 Fur- 
ther examples of controversy on account of inequality may 
be found in Dedham, 91 Mass., and on account of vagueness 
in Charlestown, 92 Mass. 

Closely connected with the inequality of proprietary 
rights, there was an interesting case in Framingham, 
Mass. 93 When Joseph Buckminster who was a proprietor 
and large land holder died, numerous claims were made 
to the land of the deceased, and, when a division of the 
common lands was made in pursuance of the proprietors' 
vote, many disputes and two law suits arose between divers 
of them. Even a special agreement which was made to 
settle the disputes seems to have failed and the matter was 
then referred to the General Court. The petition was 
drawn up by sixty-nine persons ' ' who claim or have claimed 
property and interest in the common lands" and who were 
aggrieved on account of the said division. The petition 
stated the situation in the preamble as follows : 

"... that for an amicable termination of all suits and disputes 
touching the premises, they have entered into an agreement, dated 
Framingham, Sept. 8, 1758, — which agreement has been also ratified 

so Ibid., 31-32. 

si Dedham Town Records, III: 144-146, IV: 14-15; Mann, His- 
torical Annals of Dedham, 14. 

»2 Charlestown Land Records, 192, 195. 

93 For this interesting case see : Akagi, op. cit., 70-72 ; Mass. Acts 
and Resolves, IV: 170-173; Massachusetts Archives, Mss., CXVI: 
675-678a, 681-682, 683-685, 686-687, 689, 690-691. Full details 
of petitions, reasons, and answers can be found in the latter. 


by vote of the proprietors in a legal proprietors meeting; but in 
as much as some of the claims and disputes intended to be settled 
by said agreement are of such kind as that it doubtful whether the 
same can legally be settled and made binding according to the true 
intent of the parties by aH that hath been done or can be done by 
any deeds of agreement, especially as some proprietors are minors, 
and such doubt and danger must greatly interrupt the quiet of the 
concerned, and hinder the improvement of the land (concerned), to 
the great damage of said town of Framingham; ..." 

Therefore the petitioners 

". . . prayed the above referred mutual agreement be ratified and 
established so as to operate according to the true intent thereof, and 
it being evident that if said agreement was rendered effective and 
carried into execution, it would prevent many lawsuits and promote 
the general good of the interested in said common lands. ' ' 

The Court acted in favor of the petitioners and the agree- 
ment referred to was established and ratified. Then the 
Court proceeded to order, among other things, that an exact 
survey be taken of all the lands which were held by the 
deceased Buckminster; that all persons holding any of said 
land, under any grants made by said Buckminster, "be 
quieted in the possession of so much thereof, & no more, 
than the number of acres expressly mentioned in their 
original grants"; that if it is found that Buckminster had 
no right on any part thereof, the proprietors are allowed to 
"demand and recover" such land or the value of it; and 
that if any person is found to hold more than what is ex- 
pressly mentioned in Buckminster 's original grant, he 
should "set the same off in a regular form in one entire 
piece and resign the same to the proprietors or pay them 
the value thereof. ' ' It then confirmed the division of lands 
made by the proprietors. 

Another phase of unfair division is brought out in a 
petition of the proprietors of Berwick, Mass. 94 The whole 
situation is thus summed up : 


"... that when they were set off from the Town of Kittery & 
made a distinct Township, It was ordered that the common lands 
should be divided between them in proportion to their Estates, by 
that a Meeting was appointed in the year 1711, for the Valuation 
of their Estates by which such Division should be made, but it being 
the time of War & great Danger, the People of that part now called 
Berwick could not attend said Meeting without exposing themselves 
& their families, which the other took advantage of & very much 
underrated them, by which means the Petitioners have not their 
proper share of the said common lands ..." 

The petitioners then prayed that a committee of the Court 
be appointed to inquire into their grievances and such com- 
mittee was actually appointed but no further action is 

In making any division there was also another profound 
difficulty in effecting equality in quality as well as in quan- 
tity. This difficulty caused much friction as to the division 
lines. Thus the survey of divisions became an important 
part of any division and often controversies ensued merely 
from the vagueness of the lines separating the possessions 
of two or more proprietors. A typical case is that of Tis- 
bury, Mass., where the controversy between two proprietors 
as to the lines separating their respective shares in a divi- 
sion caused a division of the proprietors into two parties. 85 
A similar case at Worcester was finally referred for divi- 
sion to a committee of the General Court. 96 Similar cases 
may be found in the other colonies. 97 

There was one more phase in this type of controversies, — 
the boundary disputes between two or more proprietors. 
The cause was generally in the unscientific method of locat- 

s* Mass. Acts and Resolves, XI: 589. 

as Records of the Town of Tisoury, Massachusetts 1669-1864, 143, 
153, 161. 

96 Worcester Proprietors' Records, 48-50. 

97 For example, Conn. Col. Rec, VI : 149-150. 


ing the grants, resulting often in overlapping territories. 98 
The Bow controversy, which is treated in detail elsewhere, 
is a typical example of this type. A new town often grew 
out of an original town and this process sometimes caused 
much trouble among the proprietors of the two towns thus 
separated. At Haverhill, Mass., for example, when Meth- 
uen was set off as a distinct township, there was a dispute 
among the proprietors of the two towns and the matter was 
only settled by the General Court. The Court resolved : 09 

"That the proprietors of any common and undivided lands in 
said township of Haverhill and Methuen are to hold and enjoy their 
respective rights and proprieties in such land, as if the said township 
of Methuen had never been granted." 


If we now summarize the whole series of controversies, 
we find that the fundamental source of proprietary contro- 
versies, no matter what type they may have assumed, was 
in the land system of the New England colonies. Focus- 
sing the interests upon the common and undivided lands, 
the line of cleavage ran economically and socially through 
the town's life — the possession and distribution of land 
on the one hand and the existence of a privileged class on 
the other, though the one was the reciprocal of the other. 

Economically, the grant of land to a certain group of 
persons with an exclusive right to the later divisions was 
undoubtedly a sound policy in those early colonial days, 
especially when we take into consideration the English 
institution as a general background upon which the pictures 
of colonial life were projected. On the other hand, the 

8« For actual controversies see : Massachusetts Archives, Mss., 
CXIII, CXIV, and CXV, passim; Connecticut Archives, Towns and 
Lands, Mss., IV, passim; Conn. Col. Bee, VIII: 411-412, 362, 383. 

wMass. Acts and Resolves, XI: 398. 


system resulted in setting aside a large portion of the town 
land, not only in the hand of a small number of men, but 
undivided and unutilized. In the eyes of those who did not 
possess the shares in the division of the common lands it 
was simply a monopoly of the town's economic resources. 
While the members of the board of proprietors alone had 
profited from their shares in the division of land from time 
to time, the rest of the inhabitants were left entirely empty- 
handed, and the system was bound to produce conflict and 
unrest instead of peace. There was an inequality in the 
distribution of town's wealth from the very beginning of 
the town life. 

Socially, the proprietors formed a distinct privileged 
class, the shareholders in the division of the common and 
undivided lands. The personnel of any board of proprie- 
tors 100 will convince us that they were, more or less, wealth- 
ier than the rest of the inhabitants ; that they represented 
the higher level of the social structure of the time; and 
that they constituted a landed, conservative, gentry class. 
That they, thus constituting a higher class in the society, 
had the church behind them is not questioned. Moreover, 
their position, as well as their privilege, was based upon 
"•blood," so to say, and was perpetuated by a system of 
inheritance. "Undeniably there was aristocratic aversion 
on the part of our thrifty Puritan fathers, ' ' wrote Herbert 
B. Adams, 101 "against granting land to new comers, unless 
they were men of some property . . . for the communal 

100 See for example the proprietors of Leicester, Mass. Of the 
twenty-two proprietors following are the remarkable names: Jere- 
miah Dummer, Paul Dudley (Attorney General, a son of the Gover- 
nor), William Dudley (another son of the Governor), Thomas 
Hutchinson (father of the later Governor), John Clark (a political 
leader), and Samuel Sewell (son of the Chief Justice). Turner, 
op. tit., 266. 

ioi Adams, Village Communities of Cape Anne and Salem, 67. 


spirit, intensified by the Puritan idea, not only forbade 
dispersion and squatter sovereignty, but wisely kept the 
control of the commune in the hands of good, substantial 
citizens, who were able to pay taxes and help support 
preaching." In short, the proprietors constituted a privi- 
leged class through claims of blood, wealth, and influence, 
backed by the pronounced support of the church. 

Thus the bulk of freemen, instinctively inclined to democ- 
racy, found it difficult to tolerate the existence of such a 
lordly gentry class within their town limits. 

These two sources of conflicts, however, were not felt 
keenly at first; in general they were fanned to sparkle up 
into a brighter flame of controversy by the increase of popu- 
lation. In other words, with the conflict-provoking land 
system on the background, the immediate cause of the 
trouble may be said to have been the increase in the number 
of townsmen which in turn caused increased demands for 
land, the heterogeneity of the people, 102 the existence of 
class consciousness, and the complications in the town poli- 
tics. This we have found to be true in nearly every town 
where controversy existed. 

That there was this inseparable relationship between the 
non-proprietors' cause and the distribution of population 
we can readily see if, for example, we compare the distri- 
bution of population with the distribution of controversies 
in Massachusetts. In general we find more controversies 
in the districts where the population was thickest. Thus, 
the principal seats of conflicts are to be found in the eastern 
parts of the Province and in the Connecticut Valley; and 
those parts constituted roughly the population belt of the 
time. Furthermore, the conflicts were bitterest in the 
eastern and north-eastern corner and that region was then 

10 2 Especially the racial elements. For example, see the English 
and the Scotch elements in their relation to the controversy at 
Palmer, Mass. Temple, History of Palmer, 135. 


the most thickly populated part of the Province. It is also 
an undeniable fact that the most violent controversies 
in the other sections just mentioned took place in the towns 
where the population was comparatively large, as at Wor- 
cester. In the case of absentee controversies, however, the 
scenes are laid in both the frontier and old towns, the 
absenteeism being more or less a frontier institution. 

Having sum m arized the general sources of controversies, 
the general demands of non-proprietors become obvious. 
They were prompted by an urgent necessity for land, and 
their claims, no matter what type the controversies may 
have assumed, may be boiled down to either one, or both, 
of two propositions : first, an equal distribution of lands to 
all legal inhabitants of the town ; and second, admission of 
inhabitants to the board of proprietors. 

The reasons which were put forward in supporting such 
a stand, as we have seen, were diverse and differed slightly 
according to the different types of controversies. In gen- 
eral they involved the following principles: that land 
belonged to all who were legal inhabitants or voters of any 
town and should be used for the benefit of all; that the 
distribution of lands should be equal to all, or, in some 
cases, according to the amount of taxation — town's charges, 
minister's rates, etc.; that the equal standing among all 
inhabitants should follow the equal payment of taxation 
and equal service; that land is not merely for possession 
but also for occupation, settlement, and improvement and 
that no land should lie idle under any hand without utili- 
zation; and that the peace and welfare of the community 
should be maintained by the unification of the town life 
through a mutual cooperation of all concerned. Thus, the 
controversies, centering as they did upon the common and 
undivided lands, involved all the important channels of 
the town's activity — economic, social, political, and even 


Against these non-proprietors' contentions and the rea- 
sons therefor, the proprietors simply shielded themselves 
securely on legal ground. They maintained that lands were 
granted to them with exclusive right to improve, divide, 
and manage ; that the full proprietary rights and privileges 
could only be obtained through direct inheritance, gift, or 
purchase; that the non-proprietors could only claim that 
amount of land which the proprietors specifically granted 
to them ; and that such grant of land by the proprietors by 
no means included the interests or shares in the remaining 
common and undivided lands unless otherwise specified. 


Judging from the claims of the non-proprietors as de- 
scribed in the preceding pages, there were in general two 
distinct demands — at bottom one and they were reciprocal 
to each other — namely, admission to the board of proprie- 
tors and concession of shares in the division of lands. 
Thus, as Egleston suggests, 103 there were two ways of 
satisfying their claims : the first was by increasing the num- 
ber of proprietors and the other was by granting lands 
to the non-proprietors or new comers, even without any 
accompanying right to the commonage. Indeed, if one or 
the other of these principles had been generally conceded 
there would probably have been no controversies. On the 
contrary, it was the denial of these simple principles which 
caused most of the controversies and the attempted methods 
of obtaining these ends become an important problem to 
be treated by itself. I shall, however, merely summarize 
what have already been discussed with certain important 

Although the proprietors were markedly jealous of their 
right and guarded it so preciously as to cause feeling 

103 Egleston, op. cit., 41-42. 


amounting to antagonism on the part of non-proprietors, 
they were in many cases conciliatory enough to make suit- 
able concessions of their right. We have already seen that 
they granted land to the thirty-nine dissatisfied non-pro- 
prietors at Haverhill in 1724 ; that a settlement was finally 
made at Newbury when, after two similar concessions in 
the two previous occasions, the proprietors conceded to 
divide the 3000 acres of the 6000 acres among all inhabi 
tants of their town who have paid rates for the two previous 
years ; that, at Salem, all the cottagers were allowed the pro- 
prietary right through two great concessions of 1702 and 
1714; and that the proprietors of Providence, R. I., ad- 
mitted both the ''New Comers" and the "Quarter Rights 
Men." At Duxbury, Mass., following a mooted contro- 
versy, all freeholders were allowed an equal share of the 
common lands after certain parts were reserved for the 
proprietors ; even young men above twenty-one years were 
given a half share in the first and a whole share in the last 
divisions. 104 

Where concession could not easily be obtained, compro- 
mise or mutual agreement was not uncommon. Such was 
the case at Northampton, Mass., when, in 1700, the town 
gained the control of a certain tract of the common lands 
for ten years and relinquished all right and liberty to cut 
timber, and, in 1754, certain four square miles of common 
lands were reserved for the inhabitants and the town 
quitclaimed all rights to the common lands. At Chatham, 
Mass., the proprietors and old comers claimed right to 
the common lands by "purchase, labor, and suffering," 
while the non-proprietors and new comers insisted that "the 
land ought to be held by the colony as a whole." A com- 
promise was reached in 1640 by which the proprietors or 

104 Old Becords of the Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts, 1642-1770, 


"the purchasers'' were to select two or three "plantations" 
for their own use and benefit, while the remaining lands 
included in the patent were to be surrendered to the Colony 
and thereafter to be disposed of by the General Court. 105 
The management of the common lands at Wenham, Mass., 
was a continued subject of difficulty and gives an example 
of mutual agreement as a means of settlement. There the 
division among the proprietors was early suggested but 
various obstacles stood in their way ; it was even questioned 
by the non-proprietors whether the division could legally 
be made without a unanimous consent of all. All parties 
finally reached a mutual agreement for a division on the 
ground "that the land in this state was very imperfectly 
cultivated and that their value could never be half rea- 
lized." 106 

The concessions and compromises were not, however, 
always fortunately reached and arbitration was the more 
general method of settling the conflicts. This was usually 
done by committees from the contending parties, as at 
Haverhill, or by a committee of townsmen, as at Lan- 
caster. 107 It has been noted already that, at Northampton, 
the proprietors sought the opinion of the leading lawyers 
of Connecticut; and when the proprietary right was ques- 
tioned at Ruxbury, the selectmen were directed to consult 
legal authority for a decision. 108 The settlement by referees 
from other towns was not infrequent also, as at Lynn and 
Maiden. 109 At Attleborough, Mass., the town itself acted 

105 Smith, History of Chatham, 46. 
ioe Allen, History of Wenham, 49-50. 

107 Annals of Lancaster, 43-45. For Haverhill, see above 126^. 

108 Ellis, History of Boxoury, 60, 72. For Northhampton, see 
above 142. 

io9 Lewis and Newall, History of Lynn, 306; Corey, History of 
Maiden, 369. Egleston gives similar suggestion (p. 4) but his ref- 
erences are erroneous and can not be found. 


as an arbitrator and helped to bring about a peaceful settle- 
ment of the land question in that town. 110 The Connecticut 
General Assembly ordered, in 1719, three freeholders, " be- 
ing persons disinterested," to decide a proprietary contro- 
versy. 111 

When all these means were impracticable or when 
quicker action was necessary, an appeal to the General 
Court was the most common and was often used as a final 
resort. It is needless to say that the colonists were well 
acquainted with this form of getting the remedy or settling 
the difficulties, especially when we remember the practice 
of appeal to the home government and the system of dis- 
allowances. Thus, numerous petitions addressed to the 
General Courts are found throughout these years of con- 
troversy. In some cases the Court acted favorably toward 
the non-proprietors, but in general its attitude was favor- 
able to the proprietors. This tendency seems to be natural 
when we think of the nature of the Court or Assembly. 
Although it represented the people through towns, never- 
theless, it was a dignified body with decidedly a conserva- 
tive inclination; the men who constituted it were mostly 
wealthy and large property holders, themselves proprietors 
in a majority of cases, and represented the more or less 
higher level of the society of the time. They were the in- 
troducers, or the successors of the introducers, of the insti- 
tution of proprietorship, moreover, and were inclined to 
be very conservative with respect to that practice. In some 
cases the Court acted immediately, but, more usually, it 
appointed a committee to investigate and report thereon. 
In many other cases it directly referred the case back to 
the proprietors — this in itself will show, to a certain ex- 
tent, how the Court was favorably disposed toward the 

noDagget, History of Atteleborough, 18-19, 62-63. 
in Conn. Col. Bee, VI; 149-150. 


proprietors — or to the selectmen of the towns in which con- 
troversy took place; while it was not altogether unusual 
for the Court to dismiss the case without redress or any 
action thereon. 112 The results of these decisions were pub- 
lished in the form of orders or resolves. No matter what 
was the actual result, this means of an appeal was exten- 
sively used as the foregoing pages show. 

It may be added also that the town sometimes settled the 
disputes by its own legislation. Lancaster, for example, 
barred the absentee proprietors from any right and privi- 
lege in the town in 1657 in order to terminate the com- 
plaints against them. 113 

The lawsuit was another method which was extensively 
and effectively used in more contentious cases. Suits of 
ejectment were very common cases in the eighteenth cen- 
tury and the files of the court of common pleas and of the 
superior court of the time throughout the New England 
colonies are full of these land cases. 114 Lawsuits were also 
used in the actions against trespasses and encroachments. 

Even if all these methods were available and found effec- 
tive in settling controversies, we also find that hostility in 
many cases gradually died away, spelling a large failure 
over the non-proprietors' claims. Such failures on the part 
of the non-proprietors were not necessarily always due to 
the unyielding character of the proprietors ; the legal basis 
and position of the board of proprietors were securely estab- 
lished to withstand even a strong attack of the non-proprie- 

112 For these different methods of procedure, see for example the 
actions of the Massachusetts General Court as shown in the follow- 
ing: Mass. Acts and Eesolves, VIII: 122, 148, 179, 199, 201; IX: 
9, 66, 85-86, 565; XI: 636, 642; XIV: 292-293; Mass. Col. Bee, 
IV, Pt. 2: 354-355. 

H3 See above 140. 

114 A few of the typical legal cases are given below in a separate 
section, particularly in connection with the eastern claims. 


tors. The proprietors had the Province and Colonial laws 
as their shield and even the sharpest of weapons of the 
offensive enemy dropped ineffective ; they usually emerged 
unhurt and victorious on this account. Thus one of Haver- 
hill 's historians, after describing the strong but unsuccess- 
ful attempts of the non-proprietors in that town, wrote: 115 

"The most reasonable solution we can give of the problem is this 
that the right of proprietors to the land claimed by them was too 
manifest and too well supported by reason and authority to afford any 
inducement to the non-proprietors to continue the contest. " 

Yet, on the contrary, we can not close this resume with- 
out reference to the good will of the proprietors, a part 
of which we have noted in their conciliatory attitude and 
concessions. Although they formed a landed class and 
represented a sort of feudatory landlordism, and although 
some of them were stamped as abstentees, hostile to the 
town's economic development, nevertheless, they con- 
tributed much toward the settlement and improvement of 
the town. In this respect we have seen numerous cases of 
proprietors' liberal contributions to the founding of 
towns. 116 Thus at Ipswich, the proprietors voted over 3000 
acres for the use of the town and later made a gift of lump 
sums for building a workhouse, school, suitable land marks, 
etc. 117 At Sutton, Mass., the proprietors granted 132 acres 
to the minister in place of 100 acres which the inhabitants 
promised to him, thus taking the whole burden off the 
shoulders of the inhabitants. 118 They were equally liberal 
in granting land to the non-proprietors in some towns. 

us Chase, History of Haverhill, 273. 

n« See above Chapter IV, "The Activities of the Town Proprie- 

n* Ancient Becords of the Town of Ipswich, 27; Waters, Ipswich 
in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, 71, 74. 

us Benedict and Tracy, History of Sutton, 38. 


Thus, at Cambridge, a large tract was "granted in a way 
of free gift . . . unto other inhabitants of the town, that 
have no interest with respect to their quality, desert, or 
standing in the town and bearing public charges. ' ' 119 The 
first settlers and new comers at Eatham, Mass., were in- 
cluded gratuitously in a general division of lands in 1652. 120 
When forty-eight non-proprietors asked for land at Rut- 
land, Mass., in 1720, four acres each were gratefully 
granted to them without a second word and, in addition, five 
acres of clear meadow were granted to each settler. 121 
Even though the proprietors constituted a sort of "landed 
gentry" and virtually controlled the town affairs, the good 
will of the proprietors at Manchester, Mass., was so well 
recognized that its historian wrote: 122 

"There is no evidence, however, that they abused their privileges, 
settling themselves up as feudatory lords and treating the rest of 
the inhabitants as vassals, but rather that they used their power in 
a wise and liberal manner, coming to the relief of the town from 
time to time in assisting to bear the burdens of taxation. ' ' 

Thus it is that in many towns we see no evidence of 
controversy between the proprietors and the rest of the 
inhabitants or the town. Their good will more than guar- 
anteed peace. 


Of the numerous legal controversies which arose as a 
result of colonial boundary disputes in the eighteenth cen- 
tury, the Bow controversy is a most notable one. It in- 
volved two proprieties, one created by the Massachusetts 

119 Cambridge Town Records, I: 155. 

120 Freeman, History of Cape Cod, II: 358. 
i2i Reed, History of Rutland, 18-20. 

132 Lamson, History of Manchester, 20. 


General Court and the other by the New Hampshire Gov- 
ernment; it raised the question of private property after 
the settlement of the boundary disputes between those two 
governments; it clearly showed the ambiguous nature of 
the township boundaries as they were granted and surveyed 
during the eighteenth century ; and it also pointed toward 
the method of settling the legal disputes of the time, being 
finally appealed to the King in Council. Incidentally, the 
Bow controversy typifies the kind of legal controversies 
which were common in the eighteenth century, though 
many were smaller and less significant. 

The Bow controversy has its origin in the two township 
grants made by Massachusetts and New Hampshire govern- 
ments over practically the same territory. In 1726 the 
Massachusetts General Court granted the township of 
Penny Cook, or Penacook, on the Merrimack River, now 
Concord, N. H., to one hundred and two proprietors. 123 
The proprietors had taken immediate measures to fulfill in 
good faith the conditions of grant and the township was 
incorporated as Rumf ord by Massachusetts in 1733-4, there 
being about eighty families. In 1727, on the other hand, 
the same territory with some additional land was granted 
by the New Hampshire authority to one hundred and 
twenty-three persons, designated as proprietors of Bow. 
Among these grantees were Benning Wentworth, after- 
wards governor, Hunking Wentworth, William Wentworth, 
Mark Wentworth, George Jaffrey, Jr., Richard Waldron, 
Jr., and Richard Wibrid, Jr. To this body was added 
''Admitted Associates" of twenty-nine members, including 
such men as Samuel Shute, Thomas Westbrook, Theodore 
Atkinson, John Wentworth, and others, embracing sub- 

128 The territory known as "Penacook" was originally granted by 
Massachusetts in 1659. It was regranted by Massachusetts on Jan. 
17, 1725/6, which grant is the one now in question. It was in- 
corporated as Eumford on Feb. 27, 1733/4. 


stantially all the members of the executive and legislative 
branches of the provincial government. While the Massa- 
chusetts proprietors were settling the town and the town- 
ship was being incorporated as Rumford, the Bow proprie- 
tors did nothing worthy of mention to improve any part 
of their grant. It may be noted here that, at the time these 
two grants of practically the same territory were made to 
these two proprieties, the common boundary line between 
northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire was 
not determined and that both provinces claimed owner- 
ship of the territory covered by these two respective grants. 
The situation stood unchanged and unnoticed for ten 
years when four events 124 precipitated the controversy. 
The first was the settlement of the boundary disputes be- 
tween Massachusetts and New Hampshire, by which, upon 
running the boundary line in 1741, Concord was officially 
transferred to the latter 's jurisdiction. The second event 
was the accession of Benning Wentworth to the chief magis- 
tracy of the separate province of New Hampshire on Dec. 
30, 1741. It will be remembered that he was one of the 
grantees of Bow and many of his associates in the govern- 
ment were relatives as well as members of the Bow grantees. 
The third event was the enactment of the District Act, 
March 18, 1741-2, which denied the validity of the Penny 
Cook grant and of the Rumford town charter granted by 
Massachusetts and approved by the King in 1738. It also 
gave power of taxation to non-incorporated towns in the 
territory which was decided in favor of New Hampshire 

124 Walker, The Controversy between the Proprietors of Bow and 
the Proprietors of Penny cook, 1727-1789, New Hampshire Histori- 
cal Society, Proceedings, III: (hereafter cited as Walker, Bow 
Controversy), 266-269. This is the best secondary account on the 
subject, with ample citations, and I have followed it closely. For 
maps, see New Hampshire State Papers, XXIV: 622-623, 624-615. 


within a limited period. 125 The last but the most important 
event was the revival of the claims of the Bow proprietors. 
That the proprietors of Bow, as a legal propriety, had 
no legal right at this time was clear from their non-com- 
pliance with the conditions of grant, which, ipso facto 
resulted in the forfeiture of the charter. 126 But the revival 
was largely influenced by the speculative spirit of the time. 
Moreover, most of the active members of the revived Bow 
propriety were the most influential men in the new govern- 
ment, headed by Benning Wentworth and followed by 
his relatives or by those who were in sympathy with the 
cause of the Bow proprietors. 127 The plan adopted by the 
Bow proprietors was twofold. On the one hand they pre- 
vented the renewal of the district act, which expired in 
1748 and left the Rumford inhabitants without civil govern- 
ment and incorporated powers. On the other hand they 
planned to obtain possession of the disputed lands by insti- 
tuting suits of ejectment of a less value than three hundred 
pounds, the least amount for which an appeal could be 
taken to the court in England. Their policy was to confine 
their suits to the provincial courts, in which they felt con- 
fident of favorable verdicts, and thus force the Rumford 
proprietors to purchase a second time or abandon their 
possessions. 128 However, the execution of this scheme was 
prevented by King George's War and it was not till 1749 

125 it expired a fourth time in 1749 and then till 1766 the town- 
ship was deprived of its corporate powers. 

126 The fulfillment of the conditions of grant was required as in 
other grants of the century. Delinquency was stated to be treated 
with forfeiture. 

127 Walker, Bow Controversy, 269#\ He has also taken into con- 
sideration some religious motives in the action of Wentworth. 

i 38 Walker, Bow Controversy, 270-271. At this time the provin- 
cial law allowed no appeal to the Governor and Council unless the 
matter in controversy exceeded in value £100, nor to the King in 
Council unless it exceeded £300. 


that the first suit of ejectment was entered by the Bow 
proprietors against John Merrill, one of the Rumford pro- 
prietors, for eight acres of land. 

The action of the proprietors of Bow against John Mer- 
rill was entered at the December term, 1749, of the common 
pleas and was continued to the one succeeding, the March 
term of 1749-50. On March 7, 1750, judgment was ren- 
dered for the defendant and the plaintiffs took an appeal 
to the next superior court, where the pleas of abatement 
were waived, and, by agreement of the parties, the case 
was continued to the following term when the case was 
dismissed, neither party appearing. The action was con- 
tinued at the defendant's request to the March term of 
1751 when judgment was rendered for the defendant and 
the plaintiffs again appealed to the next superior court. 
There, by repeated continuance, the case was carried to the 
December term of 1752 when it was tried and the judgment 
was rendered ' ' That the former judgment be reversed, and 
that the plaintiffs recover against the defendant the prem- 
ises sued for and costs of court. ' ' 129 

In the meanwhile the Rumford proprietors were not 
inactive. On April 23, 1750, they met and voted 

"That the Proprietors aforesaid will be at the cost of Defending 
John Merrill, one of said Proprietors, in the Action brought against 
the said John by the Proprietors of Bow for the Recovery of Part of 
said John's Homestead, provided said John Merrill shall Pursue and 
Defend said Action Agreeable to the orders of said Proprietors. 

"That the said Proprietors will be at the Cost and Charge of 
Supporting the just Right and Claim of any of said Proprietors or 
their grantees to any and every Part of said Township of Rumford 
against Any Person or Persons that Shall Trespass upon any of said 
Lands or that Shall bring a writ of Trespass and Ejectment for the 
Recovery of any of said Lands. Provided that the said Proprietors 

139 New Hampshire State Papers, X : 392-396 ; Walker, Bow Con- 
troversy, 272, 275-276, quoting the records of the court of common 
pleas and the superior court at length. 


or Grantees that Shall be Trespassed upon or that Shall be sued 
Shall Pursue and Defend their Eight or Claims agreeable to the 
Orders of said Proprietors of Rumford." 

They appointed two committees, one to advise John Mer- 
rill in his defense or any other person who shall be sued 
or shall sue in order to defend their just right, and the 
other to sell any necessary amount of land to defray the 
expenses of the proposed action. 130 A year later the Pro- 
prietors extended the above votes so as to include the de- 
fense of Ebenezer Virgin in an action brought against him 
by another proprietor of Bow. 131 It is evident that the case 
was not the case of Merrill but that of the Rumford pro- 

John Merrill was not, having the Rumford proprietors 
behind him in full force, dismayed at the decision of the 
superior court in 1752. At the next term of the superior 
court, Merrill brought an action of review against the 
proprietors of Bow. Again the jury found for the defend- 
ants and a judgment was rendered, on June 4, 1753, that 
' ' The former judgment be and is hereby affirmed, and that 
the said proprietors recover against the said John Merrill 
costs of court." Thereupon Merrill moved for an appeal 
from this judgment to His Majesty in Council, which mo- 
tion was rejected. Then he also moved for an appeal to 
the Governor and Council as a court of appeals, which 
motion was also rejected. 132 In the meanwhile various 
others of a like character were prosecuted by, or in the 

130 Walker, Bow Controversy, 275-276, quoting the records of the 
court of common pleas. 

i3i Ibid., 276. 

!32 Ibid, 276, quoting the records of the superior court. New 
Hampshire State Papers, XXIV: 628 has a brief summary of the 
same as it was later used in the argument before the King in 


interest of, the Bow proprietors against Merrill's neigh- 
bors and, almost uniformly, to their discomfiture. 133 

The proprietors of Rumford were still undaunted and 
they all agreed to appeal to the King in Council. Even the 
Massachusetts General Court backed the move with a gift 
of one hundred pounds in furtherance of their purpose. 134 
In February, 1753, they apointed Benjamin Rolfe and Tim- 
othy Walker, the latter their minister, to draft, sign, and 
present in their behalf a petition to His Majesty in Council, 
setting forth their grievances and praying relief therefrom. 
Four days later William Bollan was appointed agent in 
their interest. The petition was drawn up accordingly and 
Walker left for London in the autumn of 1753. 135 The 
Council and Assembly of New Hampshire, in view of Walk- 
er's sailing and the aid given by the Massachusetts Bay 
Province, voted to notify John Tomlinson, their agent at 
London, "to be upon his watch as to anything of that sort 
that may happen" and to inform the New Hampshire 
government if anything shall arise which may affect its 
interest. 136 Through Lord Mansfield 's aid, Walker, despite 
the schemes of the Bow proprietors to prevent the appeal, 
secured a hearing before the lords of the committee, the 
date set being in October, 1754. The case was delayed but 

iwNew Hampshire State Papers, X: 392-396; Walker, Bow Con- 
troversy, 276. For depositions bearing upon the cases of Merrill 
and other, see New Hampshire State Papers, XXIV: 615 ff. 

13*1753. Mass. Acts and Eesolves, XV: 45. The next year, the 
Massachusetts General Court again voted £150 for the same cause. 
lUd., XV: 250. 

is5 New Hampshire State Papers, XXIV: 614-615. Walker, Bow 
Controversy, 278-281, gives the full text of the petitions from the 

136 N ew Hampshire State Papers, I: 253; Walker, Bow Contro- 
versy, 282. 


on June 24, 1755, it was ordered by the King in Council 137 

"That a judgment of the Superior Court aforesaid, recovered by 
the Proprietors of Bow against the said John, on the first tuesday 
of Augt 1753, should be reversed, and that the appellt be restored 
to what he may have lost by means of the said judgment, whereof 
the Governor and Commander in Chief of his Majesty's Province 
of New Hampshire, for the time being, and all others whom it may 
concern, are to take notice and govern themselves accordingly." 

This decision did not dismay the proprietors of Bow. As 
soon as the Indian war was practically over, they started 
on their legal war path again and, at the December term 
of the common pleas, they entered a new action against 
Benjamin Rolfe, Daniel Carter, Timothy Simonds, John 
Evans, John Chandler, Abraham Colby, and Abraham 
Kimball for the recovery of one thousand acres in their 
possession. 138 After one or more continuances, judgment 
was rendered for the plaintiffs and the defendants appealed 
to the next superior court, where it was tried and the judg- 
ment of the inferior court was affirmed. Thereupon the 
defendants moved for an appeal to His Majesty in Council 
which was allowed. 139 

All the preparations were again made vigorously and 
Timothy Walker was appointed to prosecute the appeal. 
The Massachusetts General Court, as in the last case, again 
voted £100 to aid the cause of the Rumford proprietors. 140 
At London, Walker secured a new counsel in the person of 
William DeGrey, because Sir William Murray, his former 

137 Walker, Bow Controversy, 282-284. Lord Mansfield was then 
Sir William Murray. 

138 These are all influential members of the Eumf ord propriety. 
i3» The case was tried in the inferior court on Sept. 2, 1760, 

and in the superior court, upon appeal, on the second Tuesday in 
144 See New Hampshire State Papers, XXIV : 64:2ff. 
140 Mass. Acts and Besolves, XVI: 639. 


counsel, had been made chief justice of the King's Bench 
and Baron Mansfied. 

The case came to a trial on Dec. 17, 1762 and the judg- 
ment was rendered in favor of the Rumford proprietors. 141 
The report of the Lords of the Committee of Council was 
made at the Court of St. James on Dec. 29, and the King, 
after considering the same, ordered, with the advice of his 
Privy Council, 143 

"that the said judgment of the inferior court of common pleas of 
the province of New Hampshire, of the 2d of September, 1760, and 
also the judgment of the superior court of judicature, of the 2d Tues- 
day in November, affirming the same, to be both of them reversed, 
and that the appellants be restored to what they may have lost by 
means of the said judgments, whereof the Governor or commander 
in chief of his Majesty's province of New Hampshire, for the time 
being, and all others whom it may concern, are to take notice and 
govern themselves accordingly." 

To this decision the proprietors of Bow gave way and, 
upon appeal, the original Rumford was incorporated in 
1764 as Concord by the New Hampshire government. 

This did not end the controversy, however. The proprie- 
tors of Bow still clamored that something should be allowed 
them for the relinquishment of their alleged rights. At 
the same time the proprietors of the adjoining town of 
Canterbury claimed a small territory within the north- 
eastern limits of Concord, while the Masonian Proprietors 
asserted that its northwestern lines embraced a small tract 
of land belonging to them. The Rumford proprietors came 
to the conclusion that no more legal controversy should dis- 
turb their existence and voted to settle the trouble with 

i4i Timothy Walker to Benjamin Eolfe, London Dec. 23, 1762, 
in New Hampshire State Papers, XXIV: 646-647; Walker, Bow 
Controversy, 285-286. 

142 New Hampshire State Papers, XXIV: 641-646, gives the full 
text of the report and the King's decision. 


justice. In July, 1771, they appointed a committee "to 
make a final settlement with the Proprietors of Bow, with 
the Proprietors of Mason's Patent, and with the Proprie- 
tors of Canterbury ' ' and raised six pounds on each original 
right. In accordance with these votes, the claims of the 
Canterbury proprietors were settled in 1781 and those of 
the Bow proprietors in 1787. The Masonian claims were 
previously settled in December, 1770. 143 

It is important to note that the King 's decision in Coun- 
cil was based primarily upon the validity of private prop- 
erty as it was directed in his order upon the settlement of 
the Massachusetts-New Hampshire boundary line. That 
order expressly stated "to take care that Private Property 
be not affected" by runing the new boundary line. This 
was profitably used by Lord Mansfield in the report of the 
Lords of the Committee of Council. 144 The same ground 
was made in the previous case of John Merrill by his legal 
advisers. 145 Then also, the actual occupation of the terri- 
tory by the proprietors of Rumford, after fulfilling the 
conditions of grant, as against the delinquency of the Bow 
proprietors, had much weight in the final decision. 140 In 
both cases the Bow proprietors fell through, for they tried 
to deprive the Rumford proprietors of their property right 
under the law and they were delinquent proprietors who 
had no more right upon the Bow territory by the wording 
of their own charter of grant. Judgment was given only 
after this controversy had extended over forty years. 

143 Walker, Bow Controversy, 288-289, quoting the proprietors ' 

144 See New Hampshire State Papers, XXIV : 642^. 

145 gee the brief of Judge Pickerling on behalf of Merrill in 
New Hampshire State Papers, XXIV: 627-641. 

146 gee the report of the Lords of the Committee of Council in 
New Hampshire State Papers, XXIV: 642jf. 





The town proprietors of New England in the eighteenth 
century were decidedly speculative in their character. 
This was due partly to the conditions existing in the sea- 
board towns, partly to the atmosphere of the period both 
within and without, and partly to the change in the policy 
of land grants which was instituted by the several colonies. 
Different forces, political and economic, worked together to 
bring about the speculation in land, one of the character- 
istics of the eighteenth century. 

The seventeenth century New England was confined 
chiefly to the sea coast and river valleys, in neighborly com- 
pact settlements. The growth of population in these older 
towns gradually raised the problem of additional room for 
expansion. Unoccupied lands, both far and near, became 
an important factor in the solution of that problem and 
many a farsighted adventurer, backed by the awakening 
pioneer spirit, began to seize the opportunity thereby 
created. The result was the shifting of the first New Eng- 
land frontier line farther west and north and the loosening 
up of the compact settlements into scattered communities. 



The colonial governments helped to bring about such a 
change by adopting a more liberal policy of land grants. 

With the economic, social, and industrial changes inci- 
dent to a century of growth and development, the religio- 
social group gives way to the commercial element. There 
had come not only the accumulation of wealth but the 
necessity for investment. 1 During the seventeenth century 
the investments of the capitalists were kept comparatively 
little diversified, being confined to fishing, trading, and 
possibly lumbering, and the opportunities for the outlay of 
surplus capital were not numerous. The Parliamentary 
suppression of manufactures in the Colonies also induced 
the capitalists to seek a new channel for their investments. 
The time was not as yet ripe for a successful land specula- 
tion, but the unappropriated land of the colonies afforded 
one of the splendid opportunities for such an investment. 
Already toward the close of the seventeenth century and 
the opening of the eighteenth century a tendency for the 
amassment of land manifested itself. There began to ap- 
pear land projectors who were interested solely in dealing 
with land and who ventured to build their fortune there- 
upon. The waste land of the previous century thus became 
a valuable asset, as well as one of the speculative arena, 
of the dawning century. 

Upon these fundamental tendencies of the time other 
influences were brought to bear, directly or indirectly, 
which actually resulted in land speculation of one sort or 
another. Among these forces at work during the first sixty 
years of the eighteenth century the more important were 
the conditions in England, the currency and bank prob- 
lems, the Indian wars, the colonial boundary disputes, and 
the lottery. 

1 Mathews, Expansion of New England, 81, 100-101, etc. 


Bold speculation was one of the characteristics of the 
eighteenth century, in England and America. That rest- 
less business energy which manifested itself after the close 
of the Civil War in England continued to be one of the 
active forces in the nation during the succeeding genera- 
tions. Intruding itself into the affairs of state it soon 
taught politicians that they must shape their policies by 
its needs, so that by the middle of the eighteenth century 
there had developed an alliance between "big business" and 
the governing class which fostered a political immorality 
that resembled in its salient characteristics the similar 
phenomenon which has shown itself so plainly in the United 
States. 2 In the American colonies the speculative enter- 
prises of the mother country naturally had its profound in- 
fluence, not only in the sale of merchandise but also in the 
disposal of unoccupied land. The pulse of these influences 
of course can not be felt at one place or one enterprise but 
it manifests itself over different points of contact. The 
currency and banking problem was one of the earliest of 
these influences which accelerated the spirit of speculation 
in the New England colonies. 

The currency problem in New England was already an 
acute one by the close of the seventeenth century and the 
idea of using real estate as a basis for bills of credit clearly 
manifested itself. The very fact that the colonists needed a 
bank but had no money to furnish capital explains why 
they constantly turned to land, as a commodity of which 
they had a plenty, to supply the necessary capital. In 
Massachusetts these three elements, the bank and the cur- 
rency and the land, became closely combined and in the 
latter part of the seventeenth century, influenced by the 
English discussions and current thoughts, there were evi- 

2 Alvord, Mississippi Valley in British Politics, 1 : 86. 


dences of proposals for the formation of a land bank. 3 The 
project for a land bank reached its climax in 1714 and anti- 
climax in 1740. In the former case it failed and although 
a bank was actually established in the latter case it failed 
to give relief to the financial situation of the time. 4 A 
similar movement in Connecticut also failed. 5 Thus left 
without a bank the currency problem was in a bad condi- 
tion. All efforts to check the depreciation by legal tender 
legislation and other forcing measures failed. New issues 
were made to replace the "Old Tenor," but the "New 
Tenor" bills only added new rates of depreciation. The 
depreciated bills of credit thus flooded the New England 
market. 6 

3 The discussion for a land bank in England culminated in the 
incorporation by Parliament in 1696 of a ll National Land Bank," 
which however failed. The influence of English pamphlet literature 
was early felt in the colonies and Hartlib's pamphlet in 1661 sug- 
gested "a credit founded exclusively upon mortgages of land." 
The idea of "a Fund of Land," of "necessity of having a Bank 
to inlarge the Measure of Dealings in this Land" were familiar by 
1686 when the first land bank was suggested in Massachusetts, using 
land as a "security stock." See Davis, Currency and Banking m 
Massachusetts, II: 1-81. 

* For the land bank of 1714, see Ibid., II: 82-92; for that of 
1740, ibid., II: 130-167. The continued agitation for a land bank 
during 1720-1721 and 1732-1740 may be fuond there also. Ibid., 
II: 93-101, 167#. 

s The movement in Connecticut culminated in 1732 in the for- 
mation of the New London Society United for Trade and Com- 
erce, which actually issued bills of credit, but failed when the 
Assembly negatived the scheme. It only complicated the currency 
problem by increasing the depreciated bills of credit. See ibid.; II: 
102-110; Conn. Col. Bee, VII: 422. 

« The best authority on this subject is Davis, Currency and Bank- 
ing in Massachusetts. See chapters Yff ., XVII, XVIII, and XIX, 
respectively for Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and 


The fundamental idea underlying the agitation for a 
land bank was a credit founded exclusively upon mortgages 
on land or other goods; it was "a Fund of Land." One 
of the advertisements for the proposed land bank of 1714, 
for example, read in part : 7 

" 'Tis not propounded to be a bank of money, but of credit to 
be given forth by bills; not on money advanced, as in other banks, 
but (on Lands or goods aforesaid) to supply such as can not get 
money (by reason of its scarcity) with such as may be had for 

Later in the Connecticut scheme of 1732 and the Massa- 
chusetts proposal of 1740, "the stockholders turned out to 
be, not contributors of funds, but borrowers of notes. ' ' 8 

Such being the case the discussion over the currency and 
bank about 1714 aroused much interest in the unappropri- 
ated land of the colonies and undoubtedly paved the way 
toward the change in the land policy which was initiated 
during the following two decades. As early as 1716, for 
example, a pamphlet appeared which had a direct bearing 
upon the subject. "Some Considerations upon the several 
sorts of Banks Proposed as a Medmm of Trade" is a valu- 
able exposition of the land policy of the period in view 

7 Ibid., II : 82, foot note. 

*Ibid., II: 106. 

» Davis, Colonial Currency Eeprints, 1682-17 5 l y I: 335-349. The 
plans suggested were: grant of a township of four to five miles 
square to a group of men, by paying to the country "a moderate 
price of Land"; each to own and cultivate about fifty to sixty 
acres of land; township so to be selected as to give ample opportun- 
ity for building necessary mills; succeeding new townships to be 
granted as soon as the first is " filled up with Inhabitants ' ' ; to 
help this process the men who had engrossed the land to return one- 
half to the country; to ''lend £100 without interest, upon condition 
that in ten Years time they break up and keep subdued 50 acres 
of Land." 


of the changing conditions and embodies the suggestions for 
the utilization of waste land as a means of economic relief. 
Among other things, it discussed the problem of population 
and land, showing how the high prices of land are driving 
the people from Massachusetts to other colonies ; it pointed 
out the evil of the engrossment of land ; and it proposed the 
settling of unoccupied lands by dividing them up into town- 
ships, granting them at cheap prices, and offering subsidy 
or inducements to the settlers. 9 In 1719 another pamphlet, 
"The Present Melancholy Circumstances of the Province 
considered," appeared, heralding very similar ideas. It 
linked together the high prices of land and the scarcity of 
products and even suggested the taxation of " Waste 
Lands within the Townships" as an impetus for improve- 
ment and production. 10 In the following year, John Cole- 
man, a leader in the land bank agitation, wrote a pamphlet 
and advocated the same idea, urging the fortifications along 
the "exposed Settlements" as a first step in the utilization 
of unoccupied lands. 11 An answer to this pamphlet by E. 
Wigglesworth, on the other hand, pointed to the lack of 
laborers as a cause of waste lands and engrossment. 12 In 
the same year another pamphlet called attention to the 
relation between a land bank and unimproved land, arguing 
that the former "will raise the value of Improved Lands 

10 March, 6, 1719. Boston. Ibid., I: 350-363. See particularly 
pp. 362-363. 

ii Ibid., 1 : 407. ' ' The Disputed State of the Town of Boston, #c, 
considered." Boston, 1720. Ibid., 397-413. 

12 lt A Letter from One in the Country to his Friend in Bos- 
ton. . ." Boston, April 23, 1720. Ibid., I: 415-444. See particu- 
larly p. 440. Another of his pamphlet, "A Vindication of the Ee- 
marTcs of One in the Country upon the Distressed State of Bos- 
ton. . .", Boston, May 24, 1720, emphasizes the same view. Ibid., 
II: 19-42, particularly 32. 

i» "Some Proposals to Benefit the Province. 1 ' Boston, 1720, 
Ibid., II: 97-107. See particularly 100-103. 


to 20 or 30 per cent, which consideration will Encourage 
Farmers to Improve more Lands," 13 while in 1721 still 
another pamphlet emphasized that the land bank "will en- 
courage people to manure and cultivate dormant Lands. ' ' 14 
The unoccupied lands certainly were creating a floating 
wealth in the mind of the people and the pamphlet litera- 
tures of the period contained a new land policy and land 
speculation in embryo form. 

In Connecticut, also, during the second decade of the 
century, speculation in land was already becoming evident. 
The Connecticut Colony seized upon its unappropriated 
land as a source of income and instituted the sale of land 
at public auction. As early as 1712 the General Court 
contemplated to sell * ' all the land between Danbury on the 
North and Fairfield and Norwalk on the South at public 
auction" and to add the proceeds to "the public Treasury 
which is much exhausted. " 15 In 1715, when the Massachu- 
setts-Connecticut boundary dispute was settled and Con- 
necticut was awarded 105,793 acres of land, the General 
Court appointed a committee to sell the said land at a 
public auction "to the highest bidder." The public auc- 
tion was held at Hartford in April, 1716, and the whole 
tract was bid off for £683 by William Pitkins, one of the 
committee, in behalf of the several persons mostly residents 

it ".4 Discourse, sewing, That the real first Cause of the Strait 
and Difficulties of this Province of the Massachusetts Bay, it its Ex- 
travagancy, 4" not Paper Money. . ." Boston, 1721. Ibid., II: 

is Connecticut Archives, Towns and Lands, Mss., I: 273. No 
further record is found. There is, however, an earlier case. In 
1707 a tract, fifteen miles square, was sold at £110 to a company 
of eight, including three women, from Plymouth, Mass., and Wood- 
stock, Conn. John Chandler, later a noted land jobber, was one of 
them from Woodstock. Whether this was done at a public auction 
is not recorded. Conn. Col. Bee, V: 116. 


of Massachusetts. 16 That the spirit of speculation ruled 
the auction is evident from what followed. 17 In 1720 an- 
other auction was authorized by the Colony and a tract of 
16,000 acres was sold for £510 to a group of eight men 
representing six towns, including a famous land projector 
of the time, Roger Wolcott. 18 In the same year the town 
of Union was sold at auction "for the encouragement of 
Yale College" for £307 to a group of twelve proprietors, 
two of whom were residents of Boston, Massachusetts, show- 
ing that the spirit of speculation was already in the air." 
In the meanwhile the influence of the conditions in Eng~ 
land was being felt in the Colonies. England during the 
latter part of the second decade of the eighteenth century 
was going through a period of speculative craze, which 
found its climax in the "South Sea Bubble" of 1720 and 
other less well known schemes of the day. In France also 
an equally famous "Mississippi Scheme" proved to be an- 
other disastrous speculative experiment of the time. And 
into that speculative arena was thrown the unappropriated 
land in America. It was just at this time that Captain 

i*Conn. Col. Bee., V: 528-529. The Committee was composed of 
William Pitkins, Mathew Allen, Joseph Talcott, Boger Wolcott, and 
Capt. Aron Cook. They were carefully ordered "to be honorably 
regarded out of the money gained by the sales." £500 were also 
set aside to the trustees of the "Collegiate School." Of these 
men, Eoger Wolcott was one of the famous land jobbers of the time. 

it The conduct of the sale and the price obtained gave much dis- 
satisfaction and Pitkins was required to make his justification be- 
fore the Assembly in June. The Council, however, passed a vote 
for approving the procedure of the Committee in October and the 
whole affair was sealed. Conn. Col. Bee, V: 529, foot note. 

is Wilmington, Conn. Ibid., VI: 194. 

i» July 1, 1720. Union Proprietors ' Eecords, Mss., 3, 5, 9. Law- 
son, History of Union, 36-39. Authorized to be sold in May, 1719 
sold at auction in July, 1720; and patent granted for the same to 
the purchasing proprietors in October, 1720. Conn. Col. Bee., VI: 
130, 213. 


Thomas Coram, a famous projector, promulgated a project 
for settling the Sagadohock Province in Maine and raising 
a quantity of hemp and flax. The proposal outlined that 
a large number of men be incorporated with a capital of 
£100,000 and with a charter of privilege suited for the en- 
terprise ; that the territory be granted by the Crown to the 
corporation in fee ; that the whole direction be entrusted to 
a board of seventeen directors; and that Massachusetts, to 
renumerate that colony for a surrender of her jurisdiction, 
should have the credit of subscribing £20,000 and own a 
fifth part of the interest. The scheme was not without its 
advocates and many prominent persons were involved in 
it. Jeremiah Dumner, an English agent, apparently im- 
bued with the speculative mania then raging in England, 
was an ardent supporter and later a leader. But the 
bubble was breaking, Parliament resolved adversely, and it 
"had not time for any great success." 20 The unoccu- 
pied land and speculation were thus linked together in 
New England. 

The Indian troubles, moreover, played an important part, 
at least indirectly, in the land speculation of the eighteenth 
century. The natives were a constant menace to the colo- 
nists and, closely following the heels of the King William's 

20 Mass. House Journal, 1762, Appendix, ix; Williamson, History 
of Maine, II: 100; Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts, II: 221 
and foot note. Such petition was actually made for a grant of 
land as specified, but the Solicitor General, when it was referred 
to him, replied adversely to the proposition. Another petition 
was framed to the King, praying a hearing before the 
Lords, which was granted, but the Lords, after a reference to the 
Board of Trade, ruled in a resolution that the Crown has no right 
over the territory petitioned. Dumner tells us that he chose seven- 
teen managers, including Lord Bamngton, Col. Bladen of the Board 
of Trade, Baillis, a Commissioner of Custom, Sir Julius Beck, mer- 
chants, etc. See his letter, dated September 17, 1720, in Hutchin- 
son, History of Massachusetts, II: 221, foot note. 


War, the New England Colonies had suffered from several 
Indian outbreaks, both large and small, and took part in 
imperial Indian wars. More important among these are 
the Queen Anne's War with its peace of Utrecht in 1713, 
the Massachusetts Indian troubles in 1722-25, the King 
George's War ending in the peace of Aix-la-Chappelle in 
1748, and the French and Indian War terminating in the 
peace of Paris in 1763. There were also innumerable 
small Indian raids and outrages from time to time. 

These Indian troubles had at least three important effects 
upon New England land policy. First of all, they made 
the problem of defense more acute. As early as 1712-14, 
at the conclusion of the first period of war, the question 
was raised in earnest in Massachusetts and a series of fron- 
tier townships was suggested as a means of defense. This 
new policy was later carried, as we shall see. It however 
resulted in speculation over the border land and other 
territories. Secondly, it revealed to the colonists through 
their actual experiences in the wars a vast tract of cheap 
and plentiful unoccupied lands on the frontiers. It at- 
tracted their pioneer spirit, as well as it fermented the 
speculative spirit. This was particularly true of the Maine 
lands and the ' ' New Hampshire Grants, ' ' though the latter 
were partially influenced by the boundary disputes. Lastly, 
it enlarged the pension scheme, thereby rewarding by land 
grants the services rendered in the Indian wars. Even the 
services rendered during the last century were ardently 
sought out by thousands as a pretext for land grants. The 
Canada and Narragansett townships are typical examples 
of these, while New York and New Hampshire granted indi- 
vidual "military grants" in great number in the territory 
west of the Connecticut River. 

The boundary controversies between several colonies 
were another source of numerous speculative land grants of 
the eighteenth century. The long controversy over the 


Massachusetts-New Hampshire boundary line was finally 
settled by the decision of the King in the Council in 
1740 and the boundary line was ran in 1741. 21 Long 
before that date, however, the leaders in Massachusetts 
were contemplating a reenf orcement of their claim by actual 
occupation. As early as 1712 such steps were urged on 
the ground of Indian policy ; by 1721 the boundary question 
was closely interwoven with the township schemes; and 
by 1727-28 actual grants began to be located in what is to- 
day New Hampshire and continued until the final settle- 
ment of the line. As we shall see elsewhere, the Masonian 
title also affected Massachusetts in this respect. The New 
Hampshire-New York boundary controversy was more pro- 
lific of speculative grants and paper proprietors. Both 
colonies claimed the territory west of the Connecticut River 
and the controversy extended over twenty years until 1764 
when the Crown, in an order in Council, declared the Con- 
necticut River to be the boundary line between the two 
colonies. 22 In claiming the territory again by right of 
occupation, New Hampshire launched the policy of grant- 
ing townships west of the Connecticut River in 1749, while 
New York protested and, particularly after 1765 when the 
King's decision was promulgated in America, she too 
granted numerous townships and military grants in the 
same territory, thus making it a most confusing net work 
of conflicting claims. In either case the spirit of specula- 
tion was successfully manipulated. 23 

The last, but not the least in its importance, the enthusi- 
asm with which lotteries were practiced all over the New 

2i For the history of this controversy, see Fry, op. cit., 24:lff. 

2 2 Hall, History of Vermont, Chapters V and VI, gives the history 
of this controversy with ample citations from the sources. 

2 3 The other boundary controversies had little effect upon the 
speculative land policy. The Connecticut claim in Pennsylvania 
will be treated elsewhere. 


England colonies from the middle of the century should not 
be overlooked in connection with the speculative mania of 
the period. Here again the influence of the mother country- 
is quite evident. The passion for lotteries was widespread 
in England in the seventeenth century and in 1709 the Par- 
liament prohibited them as ' ' public nuisance. " 24 In the 
New England colonies, although the Puritan socio-religious 
system looked upon them as ' ' cheats, ' ' lotteries of various 
forms found a wide and growing patronage. The Massa- 
chusetts Bay government stamped the custom as " against 
the common good, trade, welfare and peace of the prov- 
ince' ' and "An Act for the Suppressing of Lotteries" was 
passed in 1719. 25 This was renewed in 1733. 26 Similar 
laws were enacted in Connecticut and Rhode Island. 27 

The Proviso in the Massachusetts law of 1733, however, 
exempted the lottery ' ' allowed by act of parliament or law 
of this province ' ' and this attitude overshadowed a deliber- 
ate change in the policy of the government which was 
adopted by the middle of the century. By that time lottery 
became very popular everywhere and the Province Govern- 
ment itself began to resort to it as a means of raising pub- 
lic revenues. In 1745 the Massachusetts General Court 
authorized the first provincial lottery for raising £7,500 for 
the sinking of province debts. 28 From that date on, lot- 

2 * Douglas, Financial History of Massachusetts, 96-98. 

as Act of Nov. 7, 1719, supplemented on April 30, 1773. Mass. 
Acts and Resolves, II: 149-150. In urging the legislation the 
Governor, on Nov. 4, 1719, referred to "a very mischievous and 
scandalous Practice, lately crept into the Trade of this Town of 
Boston; I mean the selling of goods, merchandises, and even Houses 
and Lands by Lottery.' ' Mass. House Journal (Ford Edition), 
II: 174. 

26 Mass. Acts and Eesolvees, II: 663-664. 

27 B. I. Col. Bee, IV: 478. Act for suppressing of lotteries, 1733. 
Weeden, op cit., II: 691-693. 

2* Mass. Acts and Resolves, II: 195-199. 


teries of various sorts, both provincial and private, were 
legalized by the General Court. 29 The movement received 
favorable impetus also in the neighboring colonies. The 
Connecticut Colony began to legalize lotteries in the forties 
and the records of the Colony during the following two 
decades are full of them. 30 The first Colony lottery was 
authorized in Connecticut in 1757 to raise £8,000 for the 
public treasury. 31 In Rhode Island the condition was 
similar, if not worse, the first authorized Colony lottery 
appearing in 1756. 32 Not only in the statute books but 
also in the newspapers of the time, from Boston to New 
York, the lottery notices were displayed in plenty. 

This change which was brought about in the whole policy 
of the colonial governments toward lotteries clearly reflects 
the atmosphere of the time. The scheme was based upon 
speculative principles and imaginary wealth, and it success- 
fully played upon the gambling spirit of men. It was 
resorted to wherever a large sum was necessary, particu- 
larly in launching public works of varied descriptions, in 
order to avoid the difficulty of raising it directly. 33 The 

29 See Mass. Acts and Resolves, passim and index. More impor- 
tant lotteries of the time were: one for supplying the treasury with 
26,700 milled dollars in 1751 (Ibid., Ill: 539-544, 548-549) ; another 
for £30,000 to cover the expenses of a military expedition to Canada 
in 1758 (Ibid., IV: 88-90, 142) ; and the land bank lottery of 1760 
(Ibid., IV: 247-263). See also Douglas, Financial History of 
Massachusetts, 98 ff. 

so Conn. Col. Bee, X: 217, 295, 431; XI: 262, 336, 411, 530, 600. 

3i Ibid X: 605-606; XI: 262, 336. This was not a success. 

32 It authorized to raise £10,000 ' ' to carry on the building of 
Fort George." B. I. Col. Bee, V: 505. Others followed. Ibid., 
VI-VII will furnish many examples. See index. 

33 Lotteries were resorted to in completing roads and highways, 
constructing bridges, building churches and libraries and other 
public buildings, etc. A typical example: the Massachusetts Gen- 
eral Court licensed lottery for the Boston Township No. 9 in April, 
1759. The scheme was to raise $1,134 for completing pavement 


hime government tried to suppress them, but the Revolu- 
tionary War alone prevented them and, after the War, they 
reappeared with a redoubled pace and on a larger scale. 34 
Such were the forces at work and we need not stop 
long to reason why the land grants in the eighteenth cen- 
tury resulted in speculation as they did. The first extensive 
speculation came in Massachusetts in 1727 and lasted until 
1738. Then Connecticut followed with her auction town- 
ships in 1737, New Hampshire started her speculative 
grants in 1748 and continued till the Revolutionary War 
period, while New York covered what is to-day Vermont 
with speculative township grants after 1765. To a more 
careful study of these several grants we shall now turn. 

and streets. It issued 6,000 tickets at $2.00 each, totaling $12,000. 
Of these $10,800, after deducting $1,200, were offered as prizes to 
the buyers. The Boston News Letter, Jan. 24 and Feb. 7, 1760. 

34 See Douglas, Financial History of Massachusetts, 100-101, 
105jf. Book II, Chapter III, deals with the lottery in Massachu- 



The final steps in the conquest of the western frontiers 
of New England colonies involved "the combined and 
sometimes antagonistic forces of eastern men of property — 
the absentee proprietors — and the democratic pioneers.' ' 
During the early seventeenth century there was no evidence 
of commercial policy in the New England land system. 
One Puritan township after another was created by free 
grant of land made in advance to approved settlers, and 
the "eastern men of property" were democratically the 
pioneers themselves. Yet the growth of the colonies brought 
about a gradual transition. As the economic interest of the 
township grant and the political influence of the leading 
men began to intertwine, the natural demarcation between 
the men of property and the men of toil became more 
evident. Already during the last quarter of the seventeenth 
century the "eastern men of property" began to control 
the fate of the unappropriated land and the slowly moving 
wheels of townships toward the west. But the absentee 
proprietors as yet had very little chance to exist. As the 
eighteenth century dawned and the problem of the frontiers 
called forth firmer solution, however, diverse economic and 
political motives became increasingly evident, particularly 
in connection with the frontier grants of townships. Also, 
the bold speculative feeling asserted its influence steadily 

1 Turner, The Frontier in American History (Chapter II, on "The 
First Official Frontier of the Massachusetts Bay"), 65. 



and a complete change in the Puritan non-commercial land 
policy was effected. In its place rose the land policy in 
which both political and economic motives were closely 
interwoven and men's attitude toward land became mani- 
festly commercial. In the new system the line between the 
"eastern men of property" and the fighting pioneers was 
definitely drawn, while speculators and capitalists walked 
hand in hand. The transition was slow but steady. In 
the Connecticut auction townships of 1738 and the Massa- 
chusetts auctions of 1762, "the transfer from the socio- 
religious to the economic conception was complete, and the 
frontier was deeply influenced by the change to 'land 
mongering. ' ' ' 2 The absentee proprietors thus became an 
important factor in the final conquest of New England 
frontiers in the eighteenth century. They were charac- 
teristically a frontier institution. 

Such a transition in New England brought about two 
main tendencies which cut through the land policy diago- 
nally, namely, the building of the frontier towns and the 
growing evil of absentee proprietors. The one was the 
necessary and wise utilization of surplus population and 
capital, while the other was the evil result of speculation 
and antagonism between two classes, the "eastern men 
of property" and the toiling pioneers of the frontier. 


The Narragansett TownsMps. These were the townships 
which were granted to the officers and soldiers, their heirs 
and assigns, who had fought in the Narragansett War of 
1675, more familiarly known as the King Philip's War. 
They have their origin in the proclamation which was 
made to the soldiers on the eve of the war, in the name of 

2 Ibid., 60-61. 

a Bodge, Soldiers in King Philip's War, 406-446. 


the Governor, promising them "a gratuity of land, beside 
their wages' ' in case of the successful accomplishment of 
the cause. 3 Several years after the successful conclusion 
of the war, in 1685, two petitions were filed in the General 
Court, praying for such a grant. 4 A township of eight 
miles square was granted accordingly but it was not located 
and the subject was buried in obscurity for forty years. 
In 1727, when the land hunger had already set in and 
"all sorts of pretexts'' were being offered for land grants, 5 
the promise was revived and a petition was made anew. 
The General Court took it up into favorable consideration 
this time and granted two townships in 1728 and five addi- 
tional townships in 1734. 6 Of these only one was located 
in Massachusetts, while two were in Maine and the re- 
mainder in New Hampshire as follows: No. 1 (Buxton, 
Me.) ; No. 2 (Westminster, Mass.) ; No. 3 (Amherst, N. H.) ; 
No. 4 (Goffstown, N. H.) ; No. 5 (Bedford, N. H.) ; No. 6 
(Templeton, N. H.) ; and No. 7 (Gorham, Me.). There 
were 120 proprietors in each township which consisted of 
six miles square. 

* Massachusetts Archives, Mss., OXII: 398; Mass. Col. Bee, V: 
487. The petitions were dated June 4 and Nov. 17, 1685, respec- 
tively. Narragansett No. 1 Proprietors* Records, 1-5, will give full 

5 See Mass. House Journal of this period. Already petitions for 
land grants were coming in with diverse reasons, such as suffering in 
the war, public services, misfortunes from Indian attacks, etc. 

e Mass. Acts and Resolves, XI: 325-326, 673-674. All the pro- 
ceedings of the Courts are conveniently gathered in New Hampshire 
State Papers, XXIV ("Town Charters," Vol. I), Appendix, 793- 
820. All the names of the proprietors are also given in Bodge, 
op. cit., 413-441. At first there were only 240 petitioners, but the 
claims increased gradually until there were 840 of them, showing the 
nature of the elaims. After 1734 the claims were again made and 
two townships were voted for 232 soldiers or petitioners, but no 
record is found where they were located, if they were located at 
all. Mass. House Journal, Jan. 5, 1737. 


In Connecticut similar petitions were taken up earlier, 
in 1696, and a grant of a township of six miles square was 
made in 1697 to the " English Volunteers" of the King 
Philip's War. The final report was not made until 1700, 
when the township was confirmed under the name of 
Voluntown to 185 proprietors. 7 

The Canada Townships. Very similar to the Narra- 
gansett townships the Canada townships were granted to 
the officers and soldiers and their descendants, who had 
served in the disastrous Canada expedition of 1690, a part 
of the King William ? s War. Following closely on the heels 
of the first Narragansett township grants, petitions for 
townships from these Canada soldiers came pouring into 
the General Court. The latter took the matter up favorably 
and granted a series of townships, nine in 1735, three in 
1736, one in 1738, and three between 1768 and 1771. 8 Fol- 
lowing are the more important of these with dates : Roxbury 
Canada (Warwick, Mass.), 1735; Gorham Canada (Dun- 
berton, N. H.), 1735; Salem Canada (Lyndeborough, N, 
H.), 1735; Dorchester Canada (Ashburnham, Mass.), 1735; 
Gallop's Canada (Guilford, Vt.), 1735; Ipswich Canada 
(Winchendon, Mass.), 1735; Beverly Canada (Weare, N. 
H.), 1735; Sylvester Canada (Richmond, N. H.), 1735; 

i Conn. Col. Rec, IV: 186, 230, 335-336, 357; Bodge, op. cit., 

s Mass. Acts and Resolves, XII : 105-106 ; 140-147 ; 181-182, 289, 
341-342, 348, 457, etc. Consult index. Also Mass. House Journal, 
1735-1737, passim. For the Canada Township of 1768: Mass. Acts 
and Resolves, XVIII: 344-345, 386-387. It consisted of six and 
one-half miles square with 79 proprietors. For that of 1771: ibid., 
XVIII: 536, 594-595. The township was of the same extent with 
80 proprietors. The names of the proprietors and all legislative 
actions for all except the last two are conveniently collected in 
Society of Colonial Wars, Massachusetts, Publications, V., 1898. 
See also New Hampshire State Papers, XXIV ("Town Charters,'' 
I), Appendix, 787-792. 


Weymouth Canada (Ashfield, Mass.), 1735; Rowley Can- 
ada (Rindge, N. H.), 1736; Newburry Canada (Salisbury, 
N. H.), 1736; Cambridge Canada (New Boston, N. H.), 
1736; Haywood or Rand's Canada (Peterborough, N. H.), 
1738; Sudbury Canada (Bethel, Me.), 1768. It is impor- 
tant to note that only four of these were located within 
the boundary line of Massachusetts, three in Maine, and 
the remaining nine in the New Hampshire territory. Each 
township consisted of a tract of land six miles square and 
the proprietors numbered sixty in each. 

In 1728 one township was granted to the soldiers of 
Lovewell 's War of 1725 9 and in 1735 Manchester was given 
to the men who served in the Indian wars of 1703 and 
1704. 10 There were also innumerable grants of land in 
plots, varying from 100 to 1,000 acres each, to the soldiers 
of different wars in consideration of military duties they 
had rendered. These were merely private military grants, 
however, and are not important in connection with the 
history of the proprietors of the period. 11 

The Frontier Townships. As early as 1715, the policy 
of creating contiguous lines of settlements along the Massa- 
chusetts frontiers was contemplated. 12 It had been re- 

9 Mass. Acts and Resolves, XI: 355, 434-435, 724, 726. 2, 130 
acres were also granted to six other soldiers in 1735. Ibid., XII: 

io Ibid., XII: 105-106. 

ii See for example, Mass. Acts and Resolves, XI: 239, 262, 342, 
349, 369, etc. The Massachusetts Acts and Resolves of this period 
are full of them. See the index for land grants to soldiers of dif- 
ferent wars. As late as 1771, 1,095 acres were granted to an in- 
dividual. The same was granted in 1737 but not laid out. Mass. 
Acts and Resolves, XVIII: 558. 

1 a .Mass. House Journal (Ford Edition), I: frontispiece, 62 


peatedly agitated and considered, notably in 1719-20, 1726- 
8, and 1732, 13 until tiers of frontier townships began to 
be created in 1736. The reason publicly given for this 
radical change in the policy of land grants were: the de- 
fense and security of the Province against the natives; 14 
the settlement of unoccupied regions in view of the growing 
population, since many persons were leaving the Prov- 
ince; 15 the encouragement of industry and production. 16 
Unofficially, the security of the territory by right of occu- 
pation must have played an important part in connection 
with the Massachusetts-New Hampshire boundary contro- 

13 See Mass. House Journal for those dates. Also New Hamp- 
shire State Papers, XXIV ("Town Charters/' 1): 749#\ Mass. 
House Journal (Ford Edition), II: 116 and 123 will give light on 
earlier discussions. 

1 4 See for example, Mass. House Journal for Dee. 9, 1726. In 
granting the Merrimae- Connecticut townships the House resolved 
"That it will be greatly to the Honour of His Majesties Govern- 
ment, and tend to the Security and Protection of the Inhabitants 
of this Province; very much Shorten our Inland Frontiers, both 
Westward and Eastward, and vastly lessen the Charge of the De- 
fense of this Government in time of War. " Dec. 5, 1727. 

1 5 Mass. House Journal for June 14, 1727, for example, gave as 
one of the reasons the following: "Eoom made for great Num- 
bers of His Majesties Subjects to Settle who are by their Increase 
streightened for want thereof. ' ' The removal to the neighboring 
colonies was referred to very often. Ibid., June 14, 1732. Mass. 
Acts and Resolves, XI: 701-702, in 1733, stated that "Great num- 
bers have removed to neighboring colonies for their accommoda- 
tions. ' * 

i 6 See for example, Mass. House Journal, June 14, 1732, which 
referred to many persons without land for industry. One of the 
reasons stated was "by the Great Increase of His Majesty's Good 
Subjects, many that are inclined to Industry have not been able to 
obtain Lands for the Employment of themselves, .... & great 
numbers have removed to neighboring colonies for their accommoda- 
tion. . ." Mass. Acts and Resolves, XI: 701-702. 


versy then going on. 17 Possibly more important still, the 
General Court must have been influenced by the numerous 
petitions which came pouring into its hall, praying for 
grants of unoccupied lands. The spirit of speculation is 
the dominating force in these petitions and all sorts of pre- 
texts and most varied reasons were sought in order to secure 
a grant. 18 The result was the creation of a most extraordi- 
nary series of line townships on the western and northern 
frontiers, of which the following are the more noteworthy 
groups : 

(1) The Merrimac-Connecticut Townships, 19 comprising 
a series of nine townships between those two rivers, 1736 : 
No. 1, Warner, N. H. ; No. 2, Bradford, N. H. ; No. 3, Ac- 
worth, N. H. ; No. 4, Alstead, N. H. ; No. 5, Hopkinton, N. 
H. ; No. 6, Henniker, N. H. ; No. 7, Hillsborough, N. H. ; 
No. 8, Washington, N. H. ; No. 9, Lempster, N. H. 

(2) The Connecticut River Townships, 19 consisting of 
a series of five townships north of Northfield, 1736 : No. 1, 
Chesterfield, N. H. ; No. 2, Westmoreland, N. H. ; No. 3, 
Walpole, N. H. ; and No. 4, Charlestown, N. H. on the 

17 Cf. Smith, Massachusetts and New Hampshire Boundary Line 
Controversy, in Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings, XLV 
(Nov. 1909) : 79#. Prior to 1726, Massachusetts granted but three 
townships in the disputed territory, and but eleven townships in 
whole or in part in the preceding one hundred years in what is now 
New Hampshire. See also Mathews, op. cit., 82. 

is Mass. House Journal for 1736 and 1737, for example, are full 
of such examples. On Dec. 21, 1736, thirty petitions of diverse kinds 
were negatived together. Public services and sufferings were the 
predominating pretexts, while misfortunes due to Indian massacre, 
construction of highway on the frontiers, etc., eame next. Sixty 
inhabitants of Framingham petitioned that "not one of the Peti- 
tioners ever had any Grant of the Court of the unappropriated 
Lands." It was negatived, June 24, 1737. 

19 Mass. Acts and Resolves, XII: 225, 232, 234, 292-293, 306-307, 
342, etc. 


east side of the river and No. 1, Westminster, Vt., on the . 
west side. 

(3) The Westfield-Suffield Townships, 20 four in all, 
1736: No. 1, Tyringham; No. 2, New Marlborough; No. 3, 
Sandisfield; and No. 4, Becket. 

(4) The Ashuelot River Townships, 21 1734: Upper 
Ashuelot, Keene, N. H., and Lower Ashuelot, Swanzy, N. H. 

(5) The Housatonie River Townships, 22 1737: Upper 
Township, Great Barrington, and Lower Township, 

(6) The Boston Towns, 23 three in number, 1736-38: No. 
1, Charlemont ; No. 2, Colerain ; and No. 3, Pittsfield. 

(7) The Boston Auction Townships, 24 nine in all, 1762. 

(8) The Maine Townships, 2 "' 1762, a series of six town- 
ships between Penobscot and St. Croix Rivers : No. 1, Han- 
cock ; No. 2, Sullivan ; No. 3, Gouldsborough ; No. 4, Wind- 

20 Ibid., XII: 225, 331, 232, 234, 380, 422-423, etc. 
2i Ibid., XI: 701-702 ; XII: 18-19, 24, 46, 493, 531, 677; XIV: 
580, 715. 

2.2 Ibid., XII: 29, 97, 212, 296, 317, 459, 507, etc. 

23 Ibid., XII: 156-157, 275, 516. 

24 The description of these interesting auction towns is given 

25 Mass. Acts and Resolves, XVII: 168-174, 191, 211, 299, 474- 
479, etc. There were also six other townships granted at or about the 
same time in the neighboring districts. These were individual grants 
and were not continuous. Much troubles followed in connection 
with these townships in procuring the King 's confirmation, which was 
one of the conditions of grants, and very little was done before the 
Bevolutionary War period. See Documentary History of Maine 
(Baxter Manuscripts), XIII: 268-276, 312-313, etc. The Boston 
News Letter, June 20, 1763. 

In 1727 an attempt was made to lay out a line of townships in 
Maine frontiers, between the " Newichawanick river and Falmouth 
in Casco Bay" and in 1731 one township was actually recom- 
mended. But nothing seems to have followed therefrom. Mass. 
House Journal, Dec. 5, 1727; June 12, 1731. 


sor; No. 5, Harrington; No. 6, Addison. These townships 
invariably consisted of a tract of six miles square and each 
propriety was composed of sixty proprietors. It should 
be added also that there were numerous individual grants 
besides these line townships throughout this period. These 
will be dealt with later. 

The Auction Townships. The Connecticut method of dis- 
posing of the unoccupied lands by public auctions has 
been already discussed. She resorted to the same method 
in disposing of her last available territory in the thirties, 
while Massachusetts also adopted it in the sixties. In these 
auctions the spirit of speculation reaches its height. 

The territory from which a greater number of Connecti- 
cut towns was formed in the eighteenth century was the 
so-called "Western Lands," covering approximately the 
present County of Litchfield. All of this vast territory, 
comprising over 300,000 acres, had been granted by the 
General Court to Hartford and Windsor in 1675. This 
action was taken in anticipation of the loss of her charter 
and the fear of Andros's drastic hands. Nothing however 
granting the privilege of settling this town, practically 
was done until 1719 when Hartford and Windsor attempted 
to settle the town of Litchfield. The General Court, while 
rescinded, at the same time, the former extensive grants 
to the two towns. Disputes followed and continued until 
1726 when it was compromised by dividing the territory 
between the two towns and the Colony. 26 The portion 
which the Colony received became to be known as the 
"Western Lands." 

In 1731 the General Court proposed to lay out five town- 

26 See Mead, op. tit., 69-70. Hartford and Windsor made adver- 
tisement in 1732 and the General Court authorized the division of 
their shares among the individual proprietors. The taxable in- 
habitants of these two towns were then divided into seven companies, 
each owning a township and the whole territory was divided. 


ships in the "Western Lands" and in 1733 the committee 
appointed for that purpose reported in favor of laying out 
seven townships to be sold at auction, the proceeds of which 
were recommended to be applied for the encouragement of 
education. 27 The whole plan was not finally acted upon 
until October, 1737, when the General Court passed an 
act authorizing the sale of seven townships at public auc- 
tion in certain specified towns of the Colony. Six of the 
seven townships were divided into 53 rights, Salisbury 
being divided into 25 rights instead, and after reserving the 
three rights for religious and educational purposes, the 
remaining fifty rights were to be sold to the highest bidders, 
the Court fixing the minimum prices, ranging from £30 to 
£60. 28 All these townships except one were sold at the 
time stated and the General Court, in 1738, passed an act 
empowering the proprietors to meet and divide their lands. 29 
Norfolk was not sold even by 1750 and a new auction was 
ordered in May, 1750, at £200 per right, but the sale was 
suspended in October for unstated reasons. 30 Another 

27 Conn. Col. Bee, VII: 343-344, 361-362, 412-413, 457-458. 
The law was passed in May, 1733, authorizing the use of the pro- 
ceeds for educational purposes in the already settled towns. Addi- 
tional acts were also passed affirming the same. Ibid., VIII: 387- 
388, 392-394. The act of 1737 provided, however, that town may 
vote for the use of ministry instead of for the schools. Ibid., VIII: 

28 Conn. Col. Bee, VIII: 134-137. Norfolk at Hartford £50 per 
right; Goshem at New Haven, £50; Kent at Windham, £50; Salis- 
bury at Hartford, £30 ; Canaan at New London, £60 ; Cornwall at 
Fairfield, £50; Sharon at New Haven, £30. One of the conditions 
was that the purchasers should be inhabitants of the Colony; other 
conditions were similar to those of the other towns of the time. 
See also Mead, op. cit., 71-72. 

z*Conn. Col. Bee, VIII: 169-171. 
™Ibid., IX: 508, 561. 


township was sold in 1755 at a price of £20 for every 100 
acres lot. 31 

No less important, possibly more significant, were the 
nine townships auctioned off by the Massachusetts Province 
in 1762. As early as 1750-52 the General Court discussed 
the advisability of selling at auction the townships in the 
western frontiers. 32 The plan was matured by 1762, a 
committee was appointed in February to supervise the sale, 
and nine townships of six miles square each and a tenth 
of 10,000 acres were sold at public auction at the Royal Ex- 
change Tavern in Boston, on June 2, 1762. 33 These town- 
ships, with the purchasers and the prices paid, are as fol- 
lows: No. 1, East Hoosac (Adams) to Nathan Jones of 
Weston for £3,200; No. 2, Peru and Hinsdale to Elisha 
Jones for £1,460 ; No. 3, Worthington to Aaron Willard of 
Lancaster for £1,860; No. 4, Windsor to Noah Nash for 
£1,430 ; No. 5, Cummington to John Cummings of Concord 
for £1,800 ; No. 6, Savoy to Abel Lawrence for £1,350 ; No. 
7, Hawley to Moses Parsons of Middleton, Conn., for £1,- 
875 ; No. 8, Lenox and Richmond to Josiah Dean for £2,550 ; 
No. 9, Chester and Murrayfield to William Williams for 
£1,500; and No. 10, Rowe, a tract of 10,000 acres, to Cor- 
nelius Jones for £380. Each one of the purchasers paid 
£20 in cash and filed a bond for the remainder, being 

3i Ibid., X : 283, 320, 392, 462. The movement for this auction 
was started as early as 1744. See ibid., IX : 1, 57-58, 143 ; X : 66, 

32 Massachusetts Archives, Mss., XLVI : 244-245, 248-249 ; CX VI : 

33 Mass. House Journal, Feb. 17, 1762. Mass. Acts and Eesolves, 
XVII: 148, 241-243. The sale of land at public auction was very 
common by this time. For example, The Boston Post Boy, May 10, 
1762, contained advertisements of three large farms to be sold at 
auction: « ' Watchusett " for £50, £5 down; Pot Ash Farm for £500; 
and a certain 800 acres for £10, £3 down. 


entered into in conjunction with from two to six others. 34 
The purchase money having been paid, the townships were 
confirmed to their respective proprietors between 1766 and 
1770. 35 In the course of a few years, however, these town- 
ships passed into the hands of other proprietors, the origi- 
nal proprietors selling out at a profit. 36 

There is one important difference in the auctions of the 
two colonies. In Connecticut the townships were divided 
into fifty odd shares and each share was sold separately 
to the highest bidders. In Massachusetts, on the other 
hand, the whole township of six miles square was sold to 
a single person, although a few others helped him in filing 
the necessary bond. The result was significant. In Con- 
necticut auction towns there were fifty proprietary rights 
in each, while in Massachusetts towns there were very few 
rights and from one to seven controlled the whole township. 
The speculative transactions and the engrossment took 
place more easily with the Massachusetts proprietors than 
with those of the Connecticut towns. 

The "New Hampshire Grants.' 9 The "New Hampshire 
Grants" were caused primarily by the boundary disputes 
between New Hampshire and New York, both of which 
claimed the territory west of the Connecticut River. As 
in the case of the claim of Massachusetts over the New 
Hampshire territory, so the New Hampshire authorities 

34 In the case of No. 10, £10 was paid in cash and the remainder 
by bond. The name of John Chadwick appears three times in these 
transactions, while those of Elisha Jones, John Murray, Oliver 
Partridge, William Williams, and John Ashley appear twice re- 

35 Mass. Acts and Besolves, XVII: 242; XVIII: 124-125, 157-158, 
259, 266, 273, 512. 

36 For example, Moses Parson, being unable to pay the price he 
quoted, sold his township to several persons in Springfield. Mass. 
Acts and Besolves, XVIII: 258, 512. See also the example of 
Murrayfield described below. 


hoped to secure a favorable decision by right of occupation 
and began to grant towns west of the river as early as 
1749. 37 This motive was strengthened by at least two other 
forces. The Indian wars and the continued trespassing 
through the wilderness west of the Connecticut River 
caused the value of the land to be generally known. 38 This 
disclosure of vast territory was very well interwoven with 
the speculative spirit of the time, both among the people 
who petitioned for lands and the executive officials who 
granted land with profit. 39 

Thus encouraged, the New Hampshire Governors, be- 
tween the years 1749 when the Indian war was concluded 
and 1764 when the King in Council decided the controversy 
in favor of New York, giving her the whole territory west 
of the River, granted no less than 129 townships in three 
tiers in that territory. These grants numbered one town- 
ship each in 1749, 1752, and 1753 ; two in 1760, sixty-eight 
in 1761, eleven in 1762, thirty-six in 1763, and seven in 
1764. These in the course of time became to be known as 
the ' ' New Hampshire Grants ' ' in comparison with the New 
York grants which followed. Besides these townships, the 
Governor also made numerous individual and military 
grants in the same territory. 40 

37 See Fry, op. cit., 266, 274^. The controversy is sketched on 

38(7/. Belknap, History of New Hampshire, II: 312. 

39 Cf. ibid., II : 312-313. Gov. Wentworth, for example, reserved 
500 acres, free of taxation, in every township he granted. His 
family members or relatives dominated the New Hampshire politics 
of the time. As we shall see later, several members of the Council 
became proprietors of hundreds of townships created by Gov. Went- 

*°A11 these town charters are collected in New Hampshire State 
Papers, XXIV-XXVI ("Town Charters, " I-III). Volumes I 
and II deal with the grants of land in New Hampshire east of 
the River Connecticut, while volume III deals exclusively with the 


The same period is also prolific in the creation of town- 
ships within the undisputed territory of New Hampshire, 
east of the River Connecticut. This was particularly true 
after the conclusion of the boundary disputes with Massa- 
chusetts and the war against the Indians. Thus there 
were granted one township in 1751, six in 1752, six in 
1753, sixteen in 1761, three in 1762, nine in 1763, eight in 
1764, and so on until 1774 when no less than seventy-five 
townships were created. As in the case of the territory 
west of the River, these do not include numerous military 
and other individual grants which were made particularly 
after the proclamation of October, 1763. 40 

With a few variations, each township was granted to 
60 proprietors and the territory was invariably six miles 
square. One remarkable fact in consideration of these 
township grants is the sudden creation, between the years 
1760 and 1764, of several thousand proprietors. Moreover 
these proprietors hailed from all over the New England 
colonies, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, Connecticut 
and even Rhode Island. 41 Many of them obtained grants 
by dozens as we shall see later. Nothing could have pro- 
duced this phenomenon except the speculative spirit of the 

The New York Grants. The direct counterpart of these 
New Hampshire grants is found in the New York grants 
in the territory now Vermont. 

grants in what is now Vermont. There are also valuable materials 
on the subject in the appendices to each volume. It is important 
to note that most of the townships were granted between 1760 and 
1764, very few prior to 1753. As to the military grants, there 
were six in Vermont in 1764 and thirty in New Hampshire, granted 
between 1765 and 1774. New Hampshire State Papers, XXIV- 
XXV-XXVI, passim. 

4i See Hall, History of Vermont, 61-62. 


The King's decision in 1764, giving to New York the 
jurisdiction of all the territory west of the Connecticut 
River, induced the Governors of New York to grant great 
numbers of townships in that territory. In 1765 Lieuten- 
ant Governor Cadwalder Colden, treating the New Hamp- 
shire grants as nullities and the settlers under them as tres- 
passers in the King's domain, initiated the practice of 
granting land anew to others, mostly to New York specula- 
tors. Moreover, enormous patent fees 42 were too great a 
temptation for the governors and the provincial officers to 
miss, while the speculative spirit of the time spurred them 
on in their actions. Then again, the Governors of the 
several colonies were authorized, by the Proclamation of 
October 7, 1763, to grant to the reduced officers and dis- 
charged soldiers of the late war certain specified quantities 
of land known as the "military grants," These the gov- 
ernors allowed to be located in the newly added territory. 43 
Many of these "military grants" were without specified 
location, and sooner or later fell into the hands of New 
York speculators. 44 These speculators were allowed to 
locate their warrants on the territory west of the River 

These different grants mostly turned out to be merely 
paper grants and, however interesting they may be, do not 
directly bear upon the New England proprietors beyond the 

4 2 Hall, New York Land Grants in Vermont, in Vermont Histori- 
cal Society, Collections, I (1870) : 147-148. The Governor received 
$31.25 for every 1,000 acres he patented; the Secretary of the 
Province $10, the Eeceiver General $14.37^, the Clerk of the Council 
$10, the Surveyor General $12.50, the Attorney General $7.50, and 
the Auditor $462%. 

4 3 A field officer was entitled to 5,000 acres, a captain to 3,000 
acres, subaltern to 2,000 acres, a non-commissioned officer to 200 
acres, and a private to 50 acres. Ibid., 148j^. 

44 Ibid., 14:8ff., 159. Note the enormous number of these grants 
and the cases of speculation. 


fact that the spirit of speculation over real estate was in 
the air at the time and that these blindly-made grants 
later caused much trouble to the New Hampshire proprie- 
tors. 46 

The Miscellaneous Townships. Besides the tiers of 
townships already mentioned and the New Hampshire and 
New York grants, it is only fair to mention that the several 
colonies continued to grant individual townships, wherever 
any space permitted, as in the previous century. These 
grants were more numerous in Massachusetts by reason of 
her vast territory and were located both in the Massachu- 
setts proper and in the Maine country after the 'sixties. 
Yet they were few in number as compared with the specu- 
lative grants already noted, although the proprietors there- 
of also turned out to be as speculative in their character as 
in other cases. 


It has been already stated that the influence of the bound- 
ary disputes, the policy of defense against the Indians, 
the speculative spirit of the time, and the economic expan- 
sion of the century had all blended together in the creation 
of these townships. So much so that the cautious and 
prudent policy of the previous century in granting lands 
was sacrificed for a more careless and very imprudent 
method. The result of such a radical policy was shown by 
the difficulties which followed. 

In the case of the Massachusetts grants in New Hamp- 
shire, the proprietors were left titleless upon the settle- 
ment of the boundary line in 1741. The New Hampshire 
government did not confirm any of the Massachusetts 
grants, but it made many regrants, often exclusively to the 

-*5 For these troubles, see Hall, History of Vermont, Chapters 
VIII-XIII inclusive. Also Hall, History of Eastern Vermont, 
Chapters VIII-IX. 


original grantees under the Massachusetts grants and to 
such others as had acquired rights in the soil from the 
latter. The Masonian proprietors either confirmed the 
original grants in entirety or admitted the Massachusetts 
grantees in the Masonian grant of the same town or gave 
them equivalent privileges in some other townships. A 
few of the settlers who had made improvements under the 
Massachusetts title resisted all overtures and several law- 
suits ensued, but these always ended in favor of the Mason- 
ian proprietors, 46 At all events, under the circumstances, 
there were many proprietors who wanted to remain under 
the Massachusetts jurisdiction, especially to avoid the exac- 
tion of annual quit-rents, and the original proprietors 
began to petition for equivalent townships elsewhere. 47 
In 1765, for example, a committee of the two houses was 
specially appointed to consider numerous petitions from 
such proprietors, the report of which committee recom- 
mended favorably and several equivalents were granted in 
that year. 48 Equivalent townships when petitioned, in 

46 New Hampshire State Papers, XXVII : ivff. The Masonian 
Proprietors, in view of these unfortunate experiences, guaranteed 
in their charters, that in case any law suit arose over the question 
of land title they would defend it at their own cost and carry the 
matter to a final issue. But in case the suit was decided finally 
against them it was stipulated that the grantees should recover 
no damages. For that purpose "law lots'' were reserved in many 
towns. See Fry, op. cit., 314-315. 

47 Massachusetts Archives, Mss., volumes for ' ' Towns ' ' are full 
of these petitions. See for example: OXVIII: 7071, 152-153; 
109-112; 141-142, 224; 144-151, 163; 267; 410-413, 540; 467-470; 
478, 483-486; 487-488; 612, 774-775; 666-667; 751-756; 757-759; 

*8 Mass. Acts and Resolves, XVill: 43. Mass. House Journal, 
1765, 298. Massachusetts Archives, Council Eecords, Mss., XXV: 
428-431; XXVI: 21, 22, 32, etc. 


fact, were always granted, usually in the Maine territory. 49 
Moreover, the proprietors experienced many vexatious 
troubles with regard to the township boundaries, showing 
the carelessness with which many of the grants were made. 
Thus the Narragansett No. 1 had a long and thorny bound- 
ary trouble with Gorham. 50 The Weymouth township over- 
lapped the Deerfield land and, as soon as the grant was 
authorized and made, another new survey had to be made. 51 
In other cases, a grant often included numerous smaller 
grants previously consummated, and consequently a larger 
territory than had been authorized had to be surveyed in 
order to compensate for the loss occasioned thereby. 52 A 
typical case of this kind is that of Dorchester Canada (Ash- 

49 Such for example were the following, granted at one time or 
another, taken at random: Bethel, Maine, for Sudbury, Canada 
(Massachusetts Archives, Mss., CXVIII: 285); Brighton, Maine, 
for Rowley, Canada (ibid., CXVIII: 109-112); Raymond, Maine, 
for Beverly Canada (ibid., CXVIII: 141-142, 224); Turner, Maine, 
for Sylvester Canada (ibid., CXVIII: 70-71, 152-153); Waterford, 
Maine, for No 6 (Mass. Acts and Resolves, XVIII: 770); Paris, 
Maine, for No. 4 (Massachusetts Archives, Mss., CXVIII: 410-413, 
540); Livermore, Maine, for Westmoreland (ibid., CXVIII: 467- 
470); Baldwin, Maine, for Walpole (ibid., CXVIII: 612, 774-775); 
etc. See also Mass. Acts and Resolves, XVIII : 47-49, 58, 127, 169- 
170, 288-289, 514, 537-538, 542-543, 564-565, 593-594-595, 747- 
748, 753-754, etc. Equivalents for the individual grants were also 
numerous. For example, ibid., XVIII: 44-47, 118, etc. See index 
for more examples. 

so Narragansett No. 1 Proprietors' Records, 165, 175, 177, 269, 
etc. Mass. Acts and Resolves, XVII: 142, 332; XVIII: 228, 253, 
etc. The boundary disputes between towns, due to geographic ig- 
norance and unsatisfactory survey, were characteristic of practically 
all townships from the previous century. But the eighteenth cen- 
tury townships witnessed these troubles more than the earlier town- 

si Mass. Acts and Resolves, XII: 310, 332. 

52 When such grants were overlooked in the grants, additional ter- 
ritory was petitioned for the Court usually granted it. 


burnham) which included six older and smaller grants 
within the territory, namely, the Starr grant, the Cam- 
bridge grant, the Lexington grant, the Bluefield grant, the 
Converse grant, and the Rolfe grant. 53 These were, of 
course, small, independent grants and the proprietors had 
no power over them. Murrayfield, the Boston Auction 
township No. 9, contained four large previous grants, in- 
cluding one of 2,000 acres and another of 4,800 acres, and 
the proprietors petitioned for an additional grant. They 
however received only 1,200 acres. 54 

An additional source of trouble was in the nature of the 
soil itself. The contiguous townships were planned and 
granted originally on paper without reference to the qual- 
ity of the soil or topography of the country. The grantees, 
being mostly speculators, claimed the land they had 
never seen before. Consequently the quality of the soil 
became a constant source of difficulty, which was only met 
by additional grants. It is true that in many cases a 
liberal allowance was made at the time of survey for high- 
ways, ponds, swamps, rivers, and rocky hills, but the result 
was far from satisfactory. This kind of complaints was 
almost universal throughout the several colonies. 55 

Another point which greatly affected the spirit of specu- 
lation but which helped the conquest of frontiers, was the 
conditions of grants. Equally in Massachusetts, in Con- 
necticut, and in New Hampshire certain conditions were 
imposed upon the grantees before the land was allowed to 
become private or proprietary property. These conditions 
differed widely in details, but agreed in principle. Dis- 
carding the minor differences, the requirements may be 
summarized as follows : to lay out the land in equal shares 

ss Stearns, History of Ashburnham, 51. 
5 * Murrayfield Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 49-50, 51, 52. 
55 See for example, Mass. House Journal, June 24 and 28, July 1, 
1737; Dec. 8 and 27, 1738 j etc. 


corresponding to the number of proprietors; to reserve 
three additional shares, one as a gratuity to the first settled 
minister, one for the maintenance of the ministry, and one 
for the support of the town school ; 56 each grantee to build 
a house of specified dimensions on his respective home lot 
and to clear a certain amount of land for cultivation, 
usually from five to six acres, within a specified time, usu- 
ally from three to seven years and to continue improving ; 
to settle one family on each lot; 57 to settle "a learned or- 
thodox minister" and to build a convenient ''meeting house 
for the public worship of God"; and to file a bond of 
certain amount to guarantee the fulfillment of these con- 
ditions. The principal points, then, were to settle families 
with homes, to clear the soil for cultivation, to prepare 
for the religious life, and to provide for the public edu- 

In the New Hampshire grants, both provincial and Ma- 
sonian, reservation was made of all white pines above a 
certain dimension for the royal navy, while in all of the 
New Hampshire provincial grants the grantees were re- 
quired to pay an annual "Rent of one Ear of Indian Corn" 
for the first ten years and thence forever an annual quit 
rent of ' ' one shilling Proclamation Money per every Hun- 
dred acres" of land. The Masonian proprietors did not 
require any quit-rent, but they reserved fifteen shares in 
each township they granted, to be free of any charge or 
taxation until improved; they often reserved two "law 
lots" also for their two lawyers. The New Hampshire 
charters likewise invariably reserved 500 acres for the 

56 In the equivalent townships granted by Massachusetts in the 
sixties, an extra share was reserved for the benefit of Harvard 
College. In Connecticut, reservations to aid Yale College were often 

57 In some cases certain number was specified for so many years, 
as forty families in four years, etc. 


Governor and often some of the members of his Council 
were included among the grantees, each receiving one share. 
In them also reservation was often made for the Incor- 
porated Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in the 
Foreign Parts and for a glebe for the ministry of the 
Church of England. Before 1760, very few had reserva- 
tion for a school ; in some after that, only the minister and 
the school were taken care of. Moreover, in every provincial 
charter granted by the New Hampshire government there 
was an incorporation clause thereby the township was 
passed as incorporated and the inhabitants were entitled to 
all the privileges and immunities that other towns within 
the province exercised and enjoyed. 58 These rights were 
not conferred by the Massachusetts and Connecticut gov- 
ernments, nor the Masonian proprietors, and it was neces- 
sary for the inhabitants to apply later to the respective 
governments for such a privilege of incorporation. 

The fulfillment of such conditions, particularly the settle- 
ment of so large a number of families within so short a 
time in so many townships, was quite a difficult problem. 
They were completely fulfilled in rare cases, partially in 
small number of towns, and scantily in the majority of 
them. Indeed, they turned out to be a means by which 
the speculative pulse of the proprietors could be easily 
felt. Before placing our hands upon that pulse, how- 
ever, we must first note the general character of the 


Just as the method of granting these townships was a 

58 Fry, op. tit., 288-291, gives an extended account of these con- 
ditions in New Hampshire charters. I have referred to this part 
of New Hampshire charters in connection with the organization of 
the proprietors. Even provisions were made for weekly markets 
and annual fairs in the earlier charters of Bening Wentworth. 


radical departure from that of the previous century, so was 
the general character of the proprietors whom those numer- 
ous grants created. In general it may be safely stated that 
the majority of them were either land-jobbers or speculators 
who were interested primarily in their personal profit 
through adventurous speculation in land and secondarily 
in the settlement of the unoccupied western frontier, if 
at all. 

The speculative motive and practice of many of these 
proprietors, beyond what the grants of townships them- 
selves generally had shown, are clearly shown in the way 
the proprietary shares were bought and sold. Of the 126 
original proprietors of the Narragansett township No. 4 
(1732), there was hardly any original proprietors left on 
the role of the shareholders after 20 years. Moreover, a 
small number of outsiders acquired the greater part of the 
interest in the township. Thus, 14 persons represented 54 
rights in 1735, 16 persons 89 rights in 1748, 15 persons 70 
rights in 1750, and 8 persons 42 rights in 1754; and in 
every case, with a few exceptions, a complete new list of 
names appear as holders of the respective rights. 59 Hay- 
wood's Canada, now Peterborough, N. H., is another, pos- 
sibly an extreme, example where within one year after the 
grant of the township the whole propriety of sixty shares 
was under the control of six men. Of these six, three had 
bought up 14 shares each, one managed to acquire 16 shares, 
while the remaining two had one each. After the lapse of 

59 Proprietors ' Kecords of Narragansett No. 4, 1732-1778, Mss., 
A: 67-68, 75, 94. Also, 78, 91. In 1735, one proprietor owned 17 
shares, another 6, and two proprietors 5 each. In 1748, one person 
owned 9, 8, 7%, 7 shares, etc. In 1750, the highest was 10 shares- 
holder; while two owned 7 shares each, two 6 shares each, and 
another two 5 shares each. In 1754, the highest number was 9, 
followed by 8, 5, 4, etc. 


another year, the latter two, the original proprietors, 
dropped out and the remaining four acted as the sole own- 
ers of the township. 60 It is not to be wondered then that 
the first meeting of the proprietors, which was held in Bos- 
ton, met on the same day the notice of the meeting was 
posted. 61 Among the proprietors of Dorchester Canada 
(Ashburnham), a certain Caleb Danna at one time held 
one-eighth of the whole township, while, when that pro- 
priety was dissolved in 1781, there were only three original 
proprietors and three heirs and twenty shares were held 
by six men. 62 The Monadnock township No. 5 (Marlbor- 
ough) is another example where the proprietors changed 
hands entirely in twenty years, while several of them had 
gathered several extra shares, as for example, Jonathan 
Blanchard. 63 

The Boston auction township No. 9 (Murrayfield) is a 
typical example of another sort. The whole township was 
purchased by William Williams in 1762 for £1,500. Before 
the year was over he sold the full right over the township 
to John Chandler, Timothy Paine, John Murray, and Abija 
Willard, while the first three of them, in June, 1763, sold 
one-fifth part of their undivided three-fourths shares to 
James Otis of Barnstable who gave the power of attorney to 
Murray. These five proprietors controlled the township 

so Smith, History of Peterborough, 26. He even wrote: "Many 
of them must have disposed of their rights before the grant was 
finally made, on the 14th of June, 1738. . . Every man and woman 
who signed that petition of December 7, 1737, forgetting the fer- 
vent zeal . . . , sold out, pocketed the profits, and was ready for 
another adventure.' ' Ibid., 25-26. 

*ilbid., 25-26. 

6 2 Stearns, History of Ashburnham, 105, quoting proprietors ' rec- 

w New Hampshire State Papers, XXVII: 452-454. 


and kept selling their rights and lands from time to time. 64 
John Hill of Boston was a type of these speculative proprie- 
tors. Between 1727 and 1740 he was either grantee or be- 
came part proprietor of at least eight townships in the Mas- 
sachusetts 's New Hampshire grants, while John Fowle of 
Woburn was sole or part proprietor of six townships in the 
same section. 65 

The New Hampshire grants show even more remarkable 
speculative spirit. John Nelson, a wealthy West India 
trader of Portsmouth, headed the list by becoming proprie- 
tor of no less than 46 townships in New Hampshire and 
Vermont, principally between 1761 and 1764. 66 Other out- 
standing speculative proprietors of the same period were 
William Kennedy who was proprietor of 21 townships, 
William Temple of 20 townships, Samuel Averil of Connect- 
icut of 24 townships, James Nevin of 39 townships, John 
Temple of 19 townships, and Col. Joshia Willard, a noted 
Massachusetts land-jobber of the period, of 18 townships. 67 
In the Monadnock township No. 4 (Fitzwilliam, 1752) 

6* Murayfield Proprietors ' Kecords, Mss., 1 : 1-4. Willard owned 
15 shares; Murray, Chandler, and Paine owned 12 shares each; and 
Otis owned 9. For sales of rights and lands, see ibid., I: 30, 32, 
36, 37, 42, 47, 49, etc. In 1763, 500 acres tract was sold for 225. 
Ibid., I: 26-27. 

65 John Hill was an original proprietor of the Merrimac-Connecti- 
cut township No. 4 (Hillsborough) and bought up the whole town- 
ship with Goshom Keys, another Boston speculator, and sold the land 
to individuals at profit. One Samuel Browne bought 1,000 acres 
for £500 cash. New Hampshire State Papers, XXIV: 140-141. 
See also, Smith, Massachusetts and New Hampshire Boundary Line 
Controversy, Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings, XLIII 
(1909): 84. 

66 19 in 1761; 5 in 1762; 13 in 1763; 1 in 1764; etc. His specu- 
lative interest began about 1750 and continued until about 1772. 
New Hampshire State Papers ("Town Charters"), passim. 

67 These are computed from the list of proprietors given in New 
Hampshire State Papers ("Town Charters"). 


granted by the Masonian proprietors, Col. Sampson Stod- 
dard owned 55 shares, James Reed 9, Mathew Thornton 8, 
Abel Lawrence and Jona Lovewell 3 each. 68 Gov. Benning 
Wentworth, the initiator of the New Hampshire grants, re- 
served 500 acres in every township he chartered, while his 
relatives and friends in the Council dominated the pro- 
priety in many a township. 69 In Connecticut the specula- 
tive spirit was no less evident. Noah Nash of Hartford, 
for example, bought up some 20 shares between 1765 and 
1773. 70 Nicholas Cook of Providence and Joseph Bennet 
of Coventry, R. I., were two of the notable Rhode Island 
speculators who dealt with the newly created townships in 
Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. 71 

Such a process of the acquisition by a few of a large part 
of the propriety and the subsequent sale was accomplished, 
more generally, through land agents who traversed, not 
only New England towns, but also as far as New York and 
New Jersey and successfully sold numerous rights. 72 Cad- 
walder Colden, Lieutenant Governor of New York at this 

68 Norton, History of Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, 1752-1887, 
62-67, quoting proprietors' records. 

69 For example, Theodore Atkinson, a brother-in-law of Gov. 
Wentworth and a most influential member of the Masonian Pro- 
prietors, was proprietor of 263 townships; Theodore Atkinson, Jr., 
of 172 townships; John Wentworth, a brother of Gov. Wentworth, 
of 260 townships. New Hampshire State Papers ("Town Char- 
ters"), passim. 

70 Barker, History of Cheshire, 7, quoting from the Eegistry of 

7i Ibid., 73-74:, 78-81-85. 

72 See for example, the notices in the New York and Connecticut 
papers of the period. The New YorTc Gazette, April 21, 1763 ; Feb. 
2, 9, and 16, March 6 and 26, and April 16, 1764; etc. The New 
York Mercury, May 21, 1764. The Connecticut Courant for 1765, 


time, wrote to the Lord of Trade and Plantation, for 
example, in 1764 : 73 

"Grantees or Persons employed by them travelled thro' all parts 
of this and in the Neighboring Province of New Jersey publicly 
offering the Lands to sale at such low rates as evince the claimants 
had no intention of becoming settlers either from inability or con- 
scious they could derive no title to the Lands under the Grants of 
New Hampshire." 

Nineteen days later he again wrote : 74 

"... A man in appearance no better than a Pedlar, has lately 
travelled thro ' New Jersey and this Province, Hawking & selling his 
pretended Rights to 30 Townships on trifling considerations. ' ' 

These agents seem even to have reached England as a field 
of their activities. 75 The Great Proprietors, such as those 
of the Plymouth Company, Lincolnshire Company, and 
Pemaquid Company, invariably employed agents to pro- 
mote their respective interests in disposing of their lands 
as well as procuring settlers upon their territories. 76 Be- 
cause of these activities, the real estate dealers began to 
appear as early as 1744 in Boston, while in the seventies 
the sale of land has become an end in itself and one Jacob 
Valk advertised himself as a "Real and Personel Estates 
Dealer." 77 

73 Colden, Colden Letter Book, New York Historical Society, Col- 
lection*, 1876, I: 288. Dated Jan. 20, 1764. 

™Ibid., I: 304. Dated Feb. 8, 1764. 

75 Letters and Papers of John Singleton Copley and Henry Pel- 
ham, 1739-1776, Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, LXXI 

78 See below the account of their activities. 

77 Andrews, Colonial Folkways, 44. See also The Boston News 
Letter, for Nov. 11-18 and Dec. 23-30, 1725, where already lands 
in Canterbury, Conn., and Haverhill, Mass., were advertised by 
agents 1,500 acres and 1,180 acres respectively. 


Land speculation was not limited to the newly created 
townships alone; it swept the proprietors of the older 
towns equally. Thus we read that Major James Fitch, 
a noted land jobber in Connecticut, owned by legisla- 
tive grants and purchases an immense tract of land in 
several Connecticut towns. 78 Charles Apthorp, a New 
York land speculator, bought up 36 out of 70 rights in Lan- 
caster, Mass., between the years 1765 and 1770 and domi- 
nated the proprietors' meetings through his agents. 79 
Ezekiel Kellog of Hadley, Mass., was another noted land 
speculator who bought and sold even as far as Rhode 
Island. 80 

Some details of the way by which these speculators 
worked may be gleaned from the diaries and itineraries of 
Ezra Stiles, a Connecticut minister who was caught by the 
speculative mania of the time and himself bought numerous 
rights in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hamp- 
shire. 81 That he was aware of the adventure and the specu- 
lative nature of the purchases he himself admitted : 82 

"Probably most of the New Hampshire Rights will become for- 
feit; perhaps I may clear a few. But Col. Lydius's will become of 
Value of £50 Sterling each before they revent; and if my Heirs are 
careful, they may easily secure them forever . . ." 

78 Caulkins, History of Norwich, 137. He owned 4,000 acres in 
Plainfield, 5,000 acres in Woodstock, etc. 

79 Sonnes, History of Lancaster, 30, 39-40. See particularly the 
letter of W. Molineaux, his attorney, to Edward Bucknan, another 
of his attorneys, dated Boston, Oct. 21, 1771, quoted in full, 40-41. 

80 Judd, History of Hadley, 292, where a detailed account of his 
speculative activities is given. 

81 Stiles, Extracts from the Itineraries and Other Mischellanies of 
Ezra Stiles, 1755-1794, 86, 92, 183-184, 141, etc. He accumulated 
3 and % shares of the Susquehanna Company also. Ibid., 184. 

8 2 Ibid., 184, dated 1762. Lydius was the one who sold him some 


In 1761 rights in Westminster, Vt., sold for £40 apiece. 83 
In the same year Stiles wrote about Chester, N. H. : 84 

"50 Dollars Price of Eights in New Town. He a man gave for 
80 acres wild but good Land in Chester £1,200, or £15 per acres. Mr. 
Allen of Chester agrees to sell me a free Eight in New Chester or 
Perry's Town (Hill, N. H.) for 40 dollars . . ." 

He envies a certain Rev. Samuel Hall who made a large 
profit out of speculation and writes : 85 

"About 1722, bought 1000 acres in Waterbury for £40 O. T. and 
has since sold the same without improvement for about £1000 Proc. 
The last 600 acres he sold, 1761, for £600 Proc. to be paid in 6 years 
with 6% interest till paid. 1718 he bought 1500 acres in Cold Spring 
for £34 O. T.; in 1744 sold for £1000 O. T." 

While on his way to Boston in 1761 he bought of a travel- 
ling salesman at Dedham a right in one of the lately created 
townships for two dollars, exchanged deeds, "which he took 
and promised to execute and deliver. " But he later added : 
' ' Nothing. ' ' 86 Stiles also refers to the land transactions 
of 1769 between Henry Price and Robert Stevens of New- 
port, R. I., where the price of land quoted was £200 per 
right at New Concord and £100 per right at Hereford. 87 
Such being the case, the next characteristic to be noted 

wlbid., 81. 

s* Ibid., 99. 

85 Ibid., 161 ; also 116, 151, etc. He writes that, at Housatonic 
No. 3 a farm was worth only £100 Old Tenor when it was started; 
then it was worth £10,000 Proc. Ibid., 116. 

ss Ibid., 99-100. 

87 Ibid., 87-88. Kobert Stevens bought four rights in New Con- 
cord but refused to buy Hereford shares by saying: "If can en- 
gage settlers, shall incline to take part there also." This evi- 
dently shows that the speculators even were aware of the conditions 
of settlement attached to each right, which subject I shall touch 


as peculiar to the majority of these proprietors is the hetero- 
geneity of the members and the practical lack of unity in 
the propriety. The proprietors of one township were scat- 
tered over a wide area and among many different towns 
and often in several colonies. A few examples will again 
illustrate the wide variety. The proprietors of the Narra- 
gansett township No. 4 (Goffstown, N. H.) were composed 
of the people from forty towns in Massachusetts, Connecti- 
cut, and Rhode Island. 88 The proprietors of the Narragan- 
sett township No. 2 (Westminster, Mass.) were scattered 
over nine Massachusetts towns : Charlestown, 33 ; Water- 
town, 26 ; Cambridge, 18 ; Sudbury, 11 ; Reding, 11 ; New- 
town, 7; Maiden, 6; Weston, 5; and Medford, 3. 89 The 
Dorchester Canada (Ashburnham, Mass.) proprietors were 
distributed over fifteen towns: Dorchester, 25; Milton, 8; 
Boston and Stoughton, 5 each; Lancaster, 4; Roxbury, 3; 
Taunton, 2; Framingham, Braintree, Harvard, Wrenham, 
Luneburg, Needham, Sudbury, and Attleborough, 1 each. 90 
One more example of the Ipswich Canada proprietors is 
very illustrative: Ipswich, 52; Gloucester, 3; Rowley, 2; 
Boston, Andover, and Beverly, 1 each. 91 

The explanation of such heterogeneous character of pro- 
prietors is not difficult. The Canada and Narragansett 
townships were granted to the soldiers and officers and their 
heirs who served in the Indian wars of 1675 and 1690, but 
every pretext was advanced to claim a right or two. These 
applicants, moreover, were listed by the Committee in 

88 Narragansett Township No. 4 Proprietors ' Records, Mss., 2-4. 
Bridgewater, 14; Taunton, and Rehoboth, 11 each; Woodstock, 7; 
Marshfield, 6; Norwich and Lebanon, 5 each; Pomfret, Dighton, 
and Pympton, 4 each; etc. 

89 Heywood, History of Westminster, 53-55. The names with 
towns whence they came are given there in entirety. 

90 Stearns, History of Ashburnham, 53-56. 

91 Marvin, History of Winchendon, 33. 


charge and divided at random, grouping them to fit the 
number of townships contemplated. The result was the 
scattering of proprietors over a wide area. In others, the 
speculative current helped to spread the shares by sales and 
transactions after the actual grant had been made. Such 
was particularly the case in the New Hampshire grants, 
where the proprietors lived sometimes in three or four 
colonies, — New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, 
Rhode Island and New York. 92 The diversity of proprie- 
tors and the lack of unity, it will be noted later, were chiefly 
responsible in retarding the settlements and in creating the 
embarrassing problem of delinquency. 

One consequence of speculation and heterogeneous char- 
acter of the proprietors was the multiplication of absentee 
proprietors. Of the sixty original proprietors of Dor- 
chester Canada, only one had actually settled, while the re- 
maining fifty-nine never saw the place. 93 The proprietors 
of the Boston auction townships No. 9 never settled the 
township, but they divided up land in several divisions 
among themselves, a paper division it may be called. 84 A 
similar case is that of Winchester, Conn., of whose 106 
original proprietors not one settled. 95 The proprietors of 
Narraganset No. 4 were scattered over Connecticut, Rhode 
Island, and six counties of Massachusetts and never actually 
settled the township. 96 In Union, Conn., three-fourths of 

92 See for example such towns as Cornwall, Middlebury, Pawnall, 
or Salisbury, all in New Hampshire. The proprietors of Cornwall 
lived in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. The Connecti- 
cut Courant, March 11 and June 3, 1765. The New York Gazette, 
Feb. 2, 1764. 

93 Stearns, History of Ashburnham, 56, 78. A similar case is that 
of Amherst. See Secomb, History of Amherst, 36. 

9* Murrayfield Proprietors ' Becords, Mss., I : passim. 
as Boyd, Annals of Winchester, 31. 

96 Narragansett No. 4 Proprietors ' Records, Mss. Also Mass. 
House Journal, June 10, 1737. 


the land was owned by non-resident proprietors, 97 while at 
Cornwall, 12,000 acres of the 25,000 acres were owned by 
absentee proprietors. 98 Even if some of the proprietors 
actually settled the township, they were always in the mi- 
nority and the majority remained as absentees. In the 
New Hampshire grants, both in New Hampshire and Ver- 
mont, the majority of the proprietors were non-resident, 
and cared so little to settle the townships that numerous 
charters of regrants had to be issued, revoking the original 
and creating an entirely new propriety. For example, of 
the sixteen townships granted in 1761 in New Hampshire, 
twelve had to be granted anew in the following years, while 
all the three townships granted in 1762 had to undergo the 
same process. Not one of the proprietors of Marlborough 
settled in the township. 


The fulfillment of the conditions of a grant as a prerequi- 
site to the final ownership of land brought about two tend- 
encies among the proprietors of the century. A minority 
party everywhere vigorously urged the settlement of town- 
ships and liberally expended their money and energy for 
the purpose. A majority, on the other hand, represented 
the speculative group who were inclined to look to only the 
profit of the grant and neglected to do their respective 
duties in fulfilling the conditions. The balance of weight, 
measured by the result, was characteristically with the 

As far as the proprietors were concerned the result of in- 
ducements and diverse encouragements in general was not 
highly satisfactory and the settlements were exceedingly 
slow and scattered. I have found no case in which the 

97 Connecticut Archives, Towns and Lands, Mss., VIII: 231. 
»s /bid., VIII: 273, 278. 


conditions of grants were fulfilled within the specified time. 
Thus, for example, the Massachusetts General Court was 
literally flooded, particularly after 1750, with the proprie- 
tary petitions, stating the reasons for the delay in settle- 
ments and praying for the extension of time within which 
to fulfill the conditions of grants." The problem became so 
acute that the Court took up the matter in 1750 and enacted 
a law in June, requiring the clerks of the towns granted 
within thirty years past to file with the General Court be- 
fore the following December the " attested Copies of such 
Grants with an Accompt of the names of the Persons who 
have & who have not fulfilled the conditions of the same. ' ' 
This was reenacted in February, 1751. 100 The reports from 
the townships show that very little was actually done to- 
ward fulfilling the conditions in the majority of the town- 
ships. 101 Generally speaking the policy of the government 
was very lenient ; almost always the extension of time was 
granted, ranging from eighteen months to two years, while 
a few were dismissed without hearing. 102 In the New 

99 The manuscript materials on towns in the Massachusetts Ar- 
chives, after 1740 in particular, are full of these petitions. See for 
example, Massachusetts Archives, Mss., CXIV: 537, 580-581; CXV: 
681-683, 113-115; CXVI: 339-340, 246-247, 635-636; CXVIII: 
93-94, 120, 197-188, 222-223, 268, 294-295, 341-342, 421, etc. 
Exemptions even from taxation were petitioned later on the ground 
of the difficulty of settlement and almost always granted. Ibid., 
CXVIII: 36-38, 39, 51-53, 40-41, 42, 43, 98-99, 44, 61-63, 91-92, 
etc. This was due to the province tax in the early sixties. 

ioo Mass. Acts and Resolves, XIV: 422, 479. 

ioi These reports are found scattered over the Massachusetts Ar- 
chives, Towns, Mss., CXV-CXVI. As usual the well settled town- 
ships reported, while the others failed even to report. Sandisfield 
(No. 3), Berwick, Petersham, Bedford, Narragansett No. 4, and 
Narragansett No. 6 were a few of those reported settlements. See 
ibid., CXV: 697-680, 707-708-710, 752, 753-754, 756-758, 811; 
CXVI: 27. 

102 Mass. Acts and Resolves of the period, passim. 


Hampshire grants the result was overwhelmingly unsatis- 
factory. There, not only numerous extensions and "re- 
newals" of charters were made upon petitions, but many 
"regrants" had to be made. In the latter case, the same 
townships were granted to altogether new sets of pro- 
prietors. 103 

Despite the well-meaning attempts on the part of the 
minority of the proprietors, the verdict of history is that 
they failed in general to fulfill the conditions of their 
grants. In studying over the factors which retarded the 
fulfillment of conditions, we can see once again the true 
nature of the eighteenth century township grants and the 
speculative character of the proprietors. 

First of all the colonial governments themselves were 
partially responsible at least in two respects, in the manner 
of creating townships and the number created. The uncer- 
tainty of titles due to the ambiguity of colonial boundaries 
caused much anxiety for the proprietors of many towns. 104 
This was especially true of the Massachusetts grants in 
New Hampshire and the New Hampshire grants west of 
the Connecticut River. 105 The proprietors in those town- 
ships had to obtain either the confirmation of the title from 
the government in whose favor the district was awarded 
or the equivalent townships elsewhere. The Masonian Pro- 
prietors confirmed the earlier Massachusetts titles and the 

103 New Hampshire State Papers, XXIV-XXV, passim. 

i«* See above, 204-207. 

105 i n 1749, the proprietors of one of the New Hampshire towns 
which were granted by Massachusetts petitioned the General Court 
for the measure to settle land title in an easier way and stated that 
the disputed title to land is the source of discouragement to the 
settlement of many an area in the Province. A committee was 
appointed for the purpose of investigating the subject by the As- 
sembly, but the Council non-concurred. Massachusetts Archives, 
Mss., LXVI: 196-198. Nov. 22, 1749. 


New Hampshire government leniently regranted to the 
same proprietors. 106 The New York authorities very rarely 
confirmed the New Hampshire title west of the River Con- 
necticut. The question of equivalent townships was met 
by the Massachusetts government with justice and numer- 
ous such grants were made on the Maine coast. In addi- 
tion to these broader boundary disputes the overlapping 
boundaries between townships and the compensations for 
the formerly consummated grants within a township grant 
caused much trouble to the proprietors. Moreover, the 
quality of land was the source of much complaint, par- 
ticularly in the tiers of townships which were planned with- 
out due regard to the nature of the soil nor topography of 
the country. The result was many petitions for additional 
grants or exchange of land. 107 

Then, the proportion between the suddenly multiplied 
number of townships and the existing population was an 
important adverse factor in the settlements of the frontier 
districts. It is too evident a fact that no large and quick 
settlements can be very well carried out without the neces- 
sary surplus population. Even if there was a surplus 
population in the several New England colonies during 

106 The proprietors of New Boston, N. H., No. 6 in the Massachu- 
setts grant but confirmed by the Masonian Proprietors, for ex- 
ample, stated, in reply to the Massachusetts survey of townships 
in 1750-1751, that they have gone into much trouble in adjusting 
title with the Masonian Proprietors and that the latters* terms 
were "too extravagant ' ' to be fulfilled. It added also that, for 
that reason, many proprietors sold their shares to the inhabitants 
of New Hampshire and since then nothing was done. Massachusetts 
Archives, Towns, Mss., CXV: 841-843. Bedford, Narragansett No. 
5, was divided into halves by the boundary line of 1741-1741, but 
the Masonian Proprietors confirmed the title in 1748. Ibid., CXV: 

i°7 See above for the treatment of these subjects, 206 and foot 
note 49. 


the first half of the eighteenth century, the number of 
townships granted was too large to supply the need. 108 
Hutchinson was quite honest in his statement when he 
wrote : 109 

"But the court, by multiplying their grants, rendered the per- 
formance of the conditions impracticable, there not being enough 
people within the Province willing to leave the old settled towns, 
and the grantees not being able to procure settlers from abroad. ' ' 

Moreover, the disturbed conditions on the frontiers 
played an important part in delaying the conquest of wil- 
derness. The Indians had, time and again during the 
eighteenth century, raided the English settlements on the 
newly extended borders. They had burned and ravaged, 
maimed and murdered, often altogether extinguishing the 
first feeble light of settlement. This was particularly true 
on the northern part of the Connecticut and Merrimac 
valleys and on the Maine frontiers. Then too there were 
organized expeditions against the Indians and the French 
which, not only took the men away, but placed a check upon 
the frontier settlements. The period of the King George's 
War in the forties and the French and Indian War in the 
fifties particularly affected the proprietors. The numerous 
petitions for the extension of time, to which I have already 
referred, in fact mentioned Indian affairs as an important 
cause of impediment to settlement. When Massachusetts 
made the survey of the condition of township settlements 
in 1750-51, this was one of the prevailing excuses offered for 
the non-fulfilling of conditions. "Warrs and Roumers 
of Warrs," reported the proprietors' clerk of Berwick, "has 

10® See below 258j(f. for a detailed treatment of the activities of 
the Great Proprietors in their effort to obtain settlers, especially 
the European immigrants. 

109 Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts, II: 300. 


much hendred and Backwarded the Settlements of the New 
Towns." 110 

Last but most important, the speculative character of the 
proprietors was the strongest factor in the delaying settle- 
ments. Speculative, heterogeneous, and ununified proprie- 
tors were always in the majority and they cared very little 
about the settlements of the township as long as they could 
see the profit. 111 Hutchinson again has well characterized 
the difiiculty : 112 

"A trade of land- jobbing made many idle persons, imaginary 
wealth was created, which was attended with some of the mischievous 
effects of the paper currency, viz. idleness and bad economy, a real 
expense was occasioned to many persons, besides the purchase of the 
grantee's title, for evenry township by law was made a propriety 
and their frequent meetings, schemes for settlements, and other pre- 
paratory business, occasioned many charges." 

The natural result was the sudden increase of delinquent 
proprietors who refused both to fulfill their part in the 
settlement of towns and to pay their shares in meeting the 
necessary expenses of the propriety. 

The enormous proprietary tasks, including settlements of 
townships, regular meetings, building of roads and mills, 

no Massachusetts Archives, Towns Mss., CXV: 752. Sandisfield 
(No. 3) mentioned Indian trouble as a chief impediment for settle- 
ment. Ibid., CXV: 707-708. Bedford complained that the first 
built houses were all burned by the Indians. Ibid., CXV: 756-758. 
Warwick (Gardner's Canada) laid a strong emphasis on repeated 
Indian raids as a main cause of delay. Ibid., CXVI: 8. Gray, 
Maine, reported that the Indian wars drove out everything from the 
townships. Ibid., CXVI: 20. Dumner, in commenting upon the 
reasons for retarding settlement of the Maine townships, pointed 
out that "the principle and perhaps only material" obstacle was 
the "exposed situation to the Indian enemy in case of rapture." 
Williamson, History of Maine, II: 77, note 97. 

in See above 209. 

112 Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts, II : 300. 


induction of ministers and erection of meeting houses, 
prosecution of trespasses, surveys for the division of land 
and employment of agents, meant an enormous expense to 
the proprietors. On the other hand, scattered over a wide 
area and the majority inspired by a speculative spirit, the 
proprieties were not, as I have already noted, unified ma- 
chines acting in perfect harmony. Moreover, because no 
large profit accrued during the first years of settlement, 
there probably followed a certain amount of disillusionment. 
The result was the rise of delinquency, one cause of non- 
settlement of many townships. The delinquent proprietors 
thus became a common subject of complaint both among 
the proprietors themselves and the inhabitants, as well 
as of legislation by the government. 

The proprietors were the first to complain. A typical 
example is that of the petition of John Hill and others, 
the proprietors of a Maine township which was granted 
in 1736, 

il Shewing that for the effectual Settlement of the Town agreable 
to Grant they have had sundry Meetings, passed many Votes, and 
Granted Taxes, and come into diverse Orders for their regular Pro- 
ceeding; but some of the Grantees refuse and neglect to make Pay- 
ment of their Proportion of the Taxes assessed on them; praying 
the Proprietors may be impowered and enabled to make Sale of 
Lands of such Delinquents, the Proceeds whereof to be applied for 
the Uses of the Grant of Taxes mentioned." 

The request was granted and the delinquent rights were 
ordered to be sold upon twenty days notice and to admit 
others in their respective places. 113 But before considering 
these actual cases, let us first examine the attitude of the 
government toward this important question. 

us Mass., House Journal, July 2, 1737. 


As early as June 24, 1738, 114 the Massachusetts Province 
had passed an act regulating the delinquent proprietors. 
After stating in the preamble that there is no means of 
enforcing in the lately granted lands or townships the 
charges voted by the proprietors in case they refused to 
pay the same, the Act declared that the land of the delin- 
quent grantees in the new townships be sold at public 
auction after thirty days notice in one or more newspapers. 
The money thus raised was to be applied for defraying the 
charges and if there was any "overplus," one-half was to 
be given to the town and the other half to be returned to 
the delinquent proprietors or their heirs or representatives. 
Two things were added in the proviso: that, if the delin- 
quent proprietors are not residents of the Province, the 
liberty of redemption is reserved to them by the payment 
of all charges within six months after the sale; and that, 
in case the grantee has brought forward the settlement, only 
the necessary part, and no more, be sold for the above 
purpose. By an amendatory act passed on Jan. 26, 1739, 115 
the committee appointed for the purpose by the proprietors 
was empowered to carry out the sale after twenty days 
notice in the Boston Gazette. In order to corroborate the 
contents of these acts, the proprietary power of taxation 
was defined by the Act of Aug. 8, 1741. 116 It empowered 
the proprietors to raise taxes by the major vote according 
to their interest and the proprietors or the clerk to grant 
warrant for such taxes. They were also empowered to 
choose collectors and assessors under oath. Any proprietors 
aggrieved or over-rated, however, were granted the liberty 

ii4Mo5s. Acts and Resolves, II: 941-942. On Nov. 9, 1731, an- 
other similar act was passed covering the non-resident proprietors of 
the older towns. Prosecution was to follow sixty days after assess- 
ment. Ibid., II: 553, 616-617. 

us Ibid., II: 972-973. 

lie Ibid., II: 1066. 


"to apply to the justices of the general sessions of the 
peace . . . for relief." Similar powers were given to the 
proprietors of new townships granted in 1765 by the Act 
of Feb. 27, 1768. 117 

Armed by these acts 118 the proprietors proceeded adroitly 
against the delinquent proprietors. The extent to which 
these delinquent proprietors colored the eighteenth century 
proprieties may be easily seen in the enormous number of 
newspaper advertisements and notices concerning the public 
auction of numerous delinquent lots in numerous town- 
ships. 119 Almost all these notices specified two things, 
namely, that the delinquents shall not be allowed to draw 
further lot in the division of land unless all the delinquent 
dues are paid and that their lands shall be sold at public 
auction according to the Province laws. A laborious enum- 
eration of lots, thus labeled for public sale, appeared in 
almost all cases. 120 Following is a typical example of the 
warning against such delinquent proprietors : 121 

''Whereas the Proprietors of the new Township Granted to 
Jonathan Powers, and others, on the bank of North Yarmouth, have 
not comply M with the terms in their Grant made them, nor with 
the votes passed by themselves in order for the fulfillment of those 
Terms — these are to notify all the Persons that were admitted 
Proprietors in sd Township [that they] within the space of Three 
Months, viz. by or between the 12 Day of Vovember next, comply 
with the Votes of the Proprietors, in raising Money for the Defray- 

w Ibid., IV: 990. 

H8 Unfortunately I found no legislative cases in the other New 
England colonies. Each case was dealt with separately. 

H9 For example, The Boston News Letter or The Boston Post Boy, 
The Connecticut Courant or The New YorTc Gazette of the period are 
full of them. 

120 For example that of Narragansett No. 4. {The Boston News 
Letter for Nov. 17, 1744), or that of West Housac {The Boston 
News Letter for August 5, 1762). 

i2i From The Boston News Letter, Oct. 4-11, 1739. 


ing past Charges, and proceed in the settlement of said Township. 
And further, to assure all Delinquents, that on Representation of 
the clerk of the Proprietors, or their Committee of such as neglect 
or refuse to comply with the Votes of the said Proprietors and 
that have not fulfilled the conditions of their Grant that their Bonds 
will be put in Suit and the forfeiture of their Right declared in 
order to their being a new Granted by the General Court. 
Boston, Aug. 8, 

William Dudley 
Ebenezer Burrill 
John Wainwright 
John Hobte 

Committee. ' ' 

Such procedure could be found in almost all the speculative 
grants of the eighteenth century. 

Actual cases of forfeitures and auction sales of delinquent 
lots are also numerous. The proprietors' records of the 
Narragansett township No. 1 are full of such instances. 
In October, 1742, the proprietors' meeting authorized a 
sale of delinquents' land and a committee was chosen. The 
notices of the sale was posted in seven different towns and 
was to be concluded on Dec. 21, 1742. But "a consider- 
able sum of money" was paid in and the sale was ad- 
journed till February, 1743. 122 In 1748, however, numer- 
ous actual sales were made and recorded, while other sales 
followed quite often between 1752 and 1769. 123 At Warner, 
during the years 1764 and 1769, twenty three delinquent 

122 Narragansett No. 1 Proprietors' Records, 127 ', 127-128. 

123 loid., 161, 253, 263, 266, 269, 275, etc. It is interesting to 
note the price of a lot as the sales were consummated in 1748: 
it ranged from £17 to £46-6 Old Tenor. Ibid., 128. It was care- 
fully specified that, if the buyer fail to pay for the land, then the 
land was to be forfeited without further action. Ibid., 130. At 
Greenock, Conn., the delinquent lots were auctioned off in 1762 at 
prices varying from £11 to £25. Hartwood Proprietors' Records, 
Mss., 15, 21, 24. 


rights were sold at an average of fifteen dollars a right. 124 
Becket and Adams, Mass., and Gorham, Me., are other 
notable examples of similar actions. 125 When the delinquent 
proprietors paid their proportion of taxes or other charges, 
the right or lot sold could be recovered. 126 

Even after the passage of the several acts by the Court 
and while drastic measures were being actually applied to 
the delinquent members by some of the proprietors, in 
many cases petitions were sent to the General Court for 
its further action upon them. Here again one typical 
example may be cited. In 1748 the proprietors of Berford 
petitioned the General Court to be empowered to sell land 
belonging to the delinquent proprietors which, they claimed, 
"has retarded the Settlement of the said Plantation." The 
Massachusetts General Court, on June 7, 1748, ordered 
that the delinquent proprietors be notified by the insertion 
of the substance of the petition in a Boston newspaper for 
three weeks so that they may complain, if there is cause, 
in the Court. "No objection being made" the Court 
granted the petition and empowered a committee of three 
to sell the land in the township. This deed, the Court 
declared, "shall be good and valid to all Intent and Pur- 
poses in the Law, to the respective Grantees, their heirs 
and assigns forever." 137 

124 Harriman, History of Warner, 141. Also, 121-122, 133. 

125 The Boston Post Boy, August 5 and 12, 1762. 

126 A typical example is that of William Brown, a proprietor of 
Union, Conn. Because of his delinquency, 2,240 acresi of his lands 
were forfeited on that account. 

127 Mass. Acts and Resolves, XIV: 148, 180. Another good ex- 
ample is that of Narragansett No. 2. See Ibid., XIV: 392-393. 



The sphere of land speculation in the eighteenth century 
was not limited to the land grants of that century and the 
town proprietors; it also extended to the dormant rights 
of the ancient patentees and even affected the Western 
claims of Connecticut. Already we have noted the distinc- 
tion between the town proprietors and the ancient paten- 
tees or the Great Proprietors. The chief importance of 
the latter in this study is not in their institutional character 
but in the speculative nature of their activities as illustra- 
tive of the extent to which the spirit of land speculation 
penetrated in the eighteenth century. 

During its short life between 1620 and 1635, the Council 
for New England issued over two dozen land patents em- 
bracing the whole of the Maine seaboard as far as the 
River Penobscot. 1 These ancient patents remained merely 
papfer patents for nearly a century and passed from one 
person to another as if they were letters of credit. How- 
ever, the influences which affected the colonial land grants 
and the town proprietors also affected these dormant rights. 
The Great Proprietors, mostly descendants or purchasers 
of original rights or combination of both, awoke, under the 
spell of the speculative mania of the time, to find their 
dormant claims still legal and valid. One after another 

i See Haven, Grants under the Great Council for New England, 
in Lowell Institute Lectures, Chapter IV. 



the larger patents were revived and the territory along the 
Maine coast became a most prolonged battle ground of 
confusing land titles and speculative activities. We shall 
examine their history, activities, and controversies in the 
following pages. 

Besides these Great Proprietors, it may be added here, 
other smaller private claims were also revived under a 
similar stimulus. Of these the more noteworthy ones are 
the Sterling claims, 2 the Edgecombe claims, 3 the Harvard 
College claims, 4 the Drowne claims, 5 the Clarke and Lake 

2 The title was derived from Lord Stirling to whom was granted 
in 1635 the Sagadonock territory by the Council for New England. 
Earle of Stirling, a direct descendant, revived the claim in 1768 
by a proclamation and printed advertisements in the newspapers of 
the day to sell 1,000 acres for £100 each on the condition of actual 
settlement. The land was to be forfeited if the conditions were 
not fulfilled, but the consideration money was to be returned with 
5% interest. Nothing, of course, resulted from these claims and 
advertisements. The proclamation was dated July 20, 1768. Massa- 
chusetts Archives, Towns, Mss., CXVIII: 378-379, 380-381, 382- 

3 Sir Ferdinando Gorges granted to Sir Richard Edgecombe two 
tracts of land in July, 1637. The claim was revived in 1767 for 
8,000 acres of these lands by Lord Edgecombe of the time through 
his agent, Sir William Pepperell. The claim was filed at the meet- 
ing of the Pejepscot Proprietors, within whose jurisdiction the 
territory lies, but nothing came out of it. Records of the Pejep- 
scot Proprietors, Mss. (hereafter cited as Pejepscot Proprietors' 
Records, Mss.), V: 1-61, particularly 51-54. 

4 In 1682, 1,000 acres was granted to Harvard College. This 
grant was revived in 1730 by the President and Fellows of Harvard 
College and located at Caseo Bay. The Pejepscot Proprietors ob- 
jected and several law suits followed. After a prolonged discus- 
sion, the verdict was given in 1737 to the Pejepscot Proprietors by 
reason of their prior claim of twenty-three years. The claim was 
then dropped. Pejepscot Proprietors' Records, Mss., V: 225-302. 

5 The Drowne Claim was based on the grant by the Council for 
New England to Robert Alsworth and Giles Elbridge in 1631. Shem 


claims in the Kennebec Purchase Proprietors' territory, 6 
and other minor claims. 7 These are primarily speculative 
moves and are remembered only in connection with numer- 
ous lawsuits in the eighteenth century. The Board of Trade 
indeed was right in thinking, as early as 1697, that "the 
revival of all dormant titles under the grants of the Council 

Drowne, the clerk and most active member of the Pemaquid Pro- 
prietors, revived the claim and took possession of the land in 1735 
through his wife who was the descendant of Nicholas Davison upon 
whom the whole patent fell in 1657. It witnessed a long series of 
law suits and controversies and finally upheld by the Commissioners 
appointed in 1811 to settle the eastern claims. The award, how- 
ever, was only half a township. Eeport of the Commissioners to 
investigate the Causes of the Difficulties in the County of Lincoln, 
with the Documents in support thereof (hereafter cited as Report 
of the Commissioners of 1811), 7-11. 

6 These were based upon Indian purchases but obtained the 
verdict in their favor in 1758. See Gardiner, History of the Kenne- 
bec Purchase, or the Proceedings under the Grant to the Colony 
of Plymouth of the Lands on the Kennebec (hereafter cited as 
Gardiner, History of Kennebec Purchase), in Maine Historical So- 
ciety, Collections, II: 148. 

7 Such, for example, were the Tappan, the Brown, and the 
Vaughen claims, all of which were derived from Indian purchases, 
and ruled by the Commissioners of 1811 as invalid. Report of the 
Commissioners of 1811, 13-15 and 82-85; 16 and 86-103; 106-109^. 
Johnston, History of Bristol, 4:75-4:77, 488-496. 

The Hamilton Patent was the one which was revived toward the 
close of the seventeenth century, but in vain. It was based upon 
the grant from the Council for New England, April 22, 1635, to 
James, Marquis of Hamilton. After the Restoration, his daughter, 
Anne, and her husband, William, Marquis of Douglas, who was 
created Duke of Hamilton in 1660, revived the claim. The final 
petition was made by James Douglas, their son, but the case wa3 
decided in 1697 in favor of Connecticut. The territory in question 
was from the mouth of the Connecticut River to the Narragansett 
Bay, extending 60 miles back into the country. Johnston, History 
of Connecticut, 215-216; Bond, op. cit., 41, foot note by C. M. 


of Plymouth would lead to unspeakable disturbances and 
confusion. ' ' 8 


The history of the Masonian Proprietors is one of con- 
fusion and entanglement. Captain John Mason was one 
of the important adventurers of the seventeenth century, 
becoming a member of the Council for New England in 
June, 1632, and Vice-President in the following November. 
Because of his prestige and interest by far the largest 
amount of grants made by that Council, both in number 
and extent, was bestowed upon Mason, or to him and Sir 
Ferdinando Gorges jointly. These are : 

(1) Mariana to Mason, March 9, 1621-2, comprising the 
territory between the Waumkeag and Merrimac Rivers, 
bounded on the west by a straight line connecting the 
sources of the two rivers. 

(2) Province of Maine to Mason and Gorges, August 10, 
1622, including the tract of land between the Merrimac and 
the Sagadohock rivers and extending sixty miles inland. 

(3) New Hampshire to Mason, November 7, 1629, com- 
prising the territory between the Merrimac and Piscataqua 
rivers and extending to the head of each and from the 
mouth of the Merrimac "forward up into y e land West- 
wards" until a distance of sixty miles from the sea had 
been reached on each course, and these limits to be con- 
nected with a line forming a westerly line. 

(4) Laconia to Mason and Gorges, November 17, 1629, 
comprising an inland tract of land of very indefinite 

(5) Piscataqua to Mason, Gorges, and seven other asso- 
ciates, November 3, 1631, conveying the settlement already 
begun on the Piscataqua and extending north to the Hilton 

8 Bond, op. cit., 41, foot note. 


Patent, with a considerable area to the south and west, 
very indefinitely and obscurely described. 

On April 18, 1635, the Council gave a lease of New 
Hampshire and Masonia to John Wollaston, a London 
goldsmith and Mason's brother-in-law, for 3000 years in 
accordance with an agreement with Mason. The territory 
included "New Hampshire" extending from the Naumkeag 
to the Newichwannock rivers and sixty miles' inland and 
"Masonia," a 10,000-acres tract at the mouth of the 
Sagadohock River. Four days later, on April 22, the same 
territories were granted to Mason in accordance with the 
agreement made on February 3rd of the same year. Wol- 
laston transferred his lease to Mason on June 11th and 
Sir Ferdinando Gorges deeded his portion to Mason on 
September 17th. 9 

The royal charter, which was issued on August 19, 1635, 
soon after the Council surrendered its charter, granted all 
these territories to Mason who, with his heirs, were made 
"the true and absolute Lords and Proprietors" in free and 
common socage by fealty only and not in capite nor by 
knight service and paying "one Quarter of wheate" annu- 
ally. Mason was given tremendous power, including the 
right of granting land and estates. 10 

After spending some 22,000 pounds in an enthusiastic 
but fruitless encouragement of settlements, 11 Capt. John 
Mason died late in 1635. By his will, dated Nov. 16, 1635, 
Mason devised his New Hampshire grant to his grandson, 

9 These patents, charters, and deeds are conveniently collected 
in New Hampshire State Papers, XXIX ("Town Charters" VI, 
Masonian, General) : 19-69, 85-87. For a summary, see Hammond, 
The Masonian Title and its Relation to New Hampshire and Massa- 
chusetts, in American Antiquarian Society, Proceedings, New Series, 
XXVI: 245-247. 

™New Hampshire State Papers, XXIX: 69-85. 

n For the work of his agent, see Hammond, op. cit., 248. 


John Tufton, on condition that he should take the name 
of Mason. He died without issue and, according to the 
same will, Robert Tufton Mason became the heir to that vast 
territory. Robert Tufton, however, did not come of age 
until 1650, during which time the widow of John Mason 
was the administratrix but was not interested in the land 
at all. 

Robert Tufton Mason died in New York in 1688, leaving 
two sons, John and Robert. These two heirs, not caring 
for the land, sold in 1691 the entire province of New 
Hampshire, together with Masonia, Mariana, Isle Mason, 
and Laconia, for £2,750 to Samuel Allen, a London mer- 
chant. Only £1,250 of the purchase price was ever paid 
and thus was started the long Allen claim. 12 Allen was 
commissioned Governor of New Hampshire and John Usher, 
his son-in-law, became Lieutenant-Governor. In 1701 Allen 
mortgaged one-half of the province to Usher for £1,500. 
Allen continued to clear the title and instituted many suits. 
The crown favored Allen, but the Assembly recognized his 
title only to the unsettled portion, while the Attorney-Gen- 
eral advised the crown not to interfere with the lands in 
possession of the inhabitants, holding their title good by 
right of possession. Finally the Council and Assembly 
arranged a convention with Allen and the settlement of the 
trouble was practically made when Allen 's death prevented 
any further conclusion. In 1705 Thomas Allen became heir 
to the territory and continued his fight for the title but 
died in 1715 without success and the Allen contest waned. 13 

12 The deed is dated April 27, 1691. New Hampshire State Papers, 
XXIX: 148#. Fry, op. cit., 220-221. 

x 3 For a detailed study of Allen 's struggle and controversies, see 
Fry, op. cit., 220-232; Hammond, op. cit., 252. The most famous 
of the suit instituted was that of Mason vs. Waldron which was 
started in 1683, continued, as Allen vs. Waldron, and decided in 
1707 for the defendant. It was appealed to the Superior Court. 


It was, however, to be revived later. It may be added here 
that with it went the Hobby claim which was created by 
the sale of one-half of the Province to Sir Charles Hobby 
by Thomas Allen in 1706. 14 

John Tufton Mason died unmarried in Virginia, while 
Robert was lost at sea, leaving an only son, John who died 
in Havana in 1718. The latter, however, left three sons 
the eldest of whom grew up as John Tufton Mason. It 
may be noted at this point that, from the time when the 
first Mason died in 1635 down to 1738, very little was done, 
if at all, in the way of actual settlement. The history of 
his title was nothing but a history of controversies, both 
legal and political. After 1715, in particular, even the 
questions of both Allen's and Mason's title practically 
became dormant until John Tufton revived it in the thirties. 

While the boundary disputes between Massachusetts and 
New Hampshire was still pending, John Tufton Mason re- 
vived his title in a memorial to Gov. Belcher of Massa- 
chusetts Province in June, 1738. The Massachusetts leaders 
investigated the Mason title with a view that it might 
possibly bear upon the boundary case, and, after being 
convinced of its validity, began to negotiate with him. 51 
As a result, on July 1, 1738, Mason executed a deed to the 
Province of Massachusetts Bay through her agent, by which, 
in consideration of £500, he quit-claimed to the inhabitants 
and proprietors of Salisbury, Amesbury, Haverhill, Meth- 
uen, and Dracut all the lands contained in those respective 
towns, which were more than three miles north of the 
Merrimac River. The territory thus quit-claimed comprised 
23,675 acres. 16 By agreement Mason was to go to London 

i*For the Hobby ease, see Fry, op. cit., 239-241. 

1 5 An opinion was obtained from two leading lawyers of Boston 
who maintained that the Mason title was still valid. This was in 
June, 1738. New Hampshire State Papers, XXIX: 178-181. 

is The deed is in New Hampshire State Papers, XXIX : 189-193. 


at the expense of Massachusetts and exert his influence to 
establish the line as agreed. Soon after Mason's arrival 
at London, however, Francis Wilkes, a Massachusetts agent, 
following the opinion of the King's Solicitor not to press 
the scheme, caused Mason's dismissal as agent. 

Hearing of this unfortunate affair, John Thomlinson, the 
New Hampshire agent in the boundary case, persuaded 
Mason to release his interest to New Hampshire and on 
April 6, 1739, a tripartite agreement was executed, wherein 
Mason agreed, in consideration of the payment of £1,000 
New England currency within two months after New 
Hampshire should be declared a distinct and separate gov- 
ernment, to convey all his interests in the province of New 
Hampshire to the said government and the other inhabitants 
then in possession of land in that province upon condition 
that in all future land grants within that territory Mason 
should have a share equal in proportion to that of any 
other grantee. 17 The matter remained in this position for 
several years. 

The boundary controversy was settled, the new boundary 
was established in 1740-1, and in December, 1741, Benning 
Wentworth was commissioned Governor of the now separate 
Province of New Hampshire. But the new government 
failed to come to a decision in accepting Mason's deed 
according to the tripartite agreement 18 and a syndicate was 

it (l) Mason; (2) John Rindge, Theodore Atkinson, Andrew Wig- 
gin, George Jeffrey, and Bening Wentworth; and (3) Thomlinson. 
The deed is in New Hampshire State Papers, XXIX: 193-196. Of 
the party of the second part, Wiggin was the Speaker of the As- 
sembly and the remainder were all members of the Council. 

is Principally due to the hostility of the Council. A brief story 
of the struggle is in Fry, op. cit., 302^. It is to be seen that this 
was natural because all the members except one of the tripartite 
agreement on the second part were members of the Council and 
they themselves wanted to buy the title from Mason. 


formed to negotiate the purchase of title from Mason. 
Accordingly, on July 30, 1746, Mason deeded his portion of 
the Province for £1,500 to twelve men. 19 On the following 
day the new proprietors quit-claimed to the inhabitants all 
their rights over the land contained within the original 
towns as well as that embraced within the limits of all the 
other towns, that had ever been granted by the government 
of New Hampshire. 20 

Immediately upon the execution of the deed, severe criti- 
cism arose in the Assembly and the purchasers were accused 
of taking a bargain out of the Government's hands. An 
endeavor, extending over two years, to accomplish peaceful 
agreement between the Council and the Assembly on the 
one hand and the purchasers on the other ended without 
result. 21 On May 12, 1748, the Masonian Proprietors issued 
a notification for a meeting of the Propriety on the 14th 
for the purpose of organization and transaction of such 
other business as might be thought proper. They met on 
the appointed day and, after choosing a moderator and a 
clerk, agreed that any eight of the proprietors should have 
a power to call a meeting at any time except when one was 
under adjournment. 22 ' At an adjourned meeting a com- 
mittee was appointed to procure such papers and records 
as might be judged necessary to support and maintain their 
title and agents were selected to prosecute any trespassers 

is The deed is in New Hampshire State Papers, XXIX : 213-215, 

20 Ibid., 216-217. The towns named were : Portsmouth, Exeter, 
Dover, Hampton, Gosport, Kingston, Derry, Chester, Nottingham, 
Barrington, Eochester, Canterbury, Bow, Chichester, Epson, and 
Barnstead — 16 in all. Gilmanton and Kingswon alone were excepted, 
the reason being that the proprietors did not believe any improve- 
ment had been made within the limits. Ibid., 257. 

2i See Fry, op. cit., 305/f. 

22 New Hampshire State Papers, XXIX : 403-404. 


upon their land. In the meanwhile petitions for land be- 
gan to come in thickly and the Masonian Proprietors, in the 
autumn of 1748, began to grant land, thus venturing into 
the field of speculation. 

The Masonian Propriety thus organized was divided into 
fifteen equal shares. These were originally held by twelve 
most influential men of the time: Theodore Atkinson 
three shares ; Mark Hunking Wentworth two ; Ricjard Wi- 
brid, John Wentworth, George Jaffrey, Nathaniel Meserve, 
Thomas Pasker, Thomas Wallingford, Jotham Odiorne, 
Joshua Peirce, Samuel Moore, and John Moffat. Mark 
Hunking Wentworth sold one of his two shares to John 
Rindge, June 2, 1750; Theodore Atkinson sold two of his 
three to John Tufton Mason, August 1, 1746 ; Mason sold 
one of his two in equal interest to Samuel Solly and 
Clement March, May 26, 1749, while he sold the one-half 
of his remaining share to John Thomlinson, June 9, 1749. 
On various dates Nathaniel Meserve sold fractional parts 
of his interest to Joseph Blanchard, Joseph Green, and Paul 
March. Col. Samuel Moore having died, his share was held 
by his widow, Mary Moore, and her brother, Daniel Peirce. 
It is an amazing fact that all of these Proprietors, except 
four, were relatives, while seven of them were active 
members of the Council. 23 Mark Hunking Wentworth, the 
father of later Gov. John Wentworth and a member of the 
Governor's Council from 1759 to 1775, and John Went- 
worth were sons of Lieutenant-Governor John Wentworth 
and brother of Gov. Benning Wentworth, while Theodore 
Atkinson was the latter 's brother-in-law. They were all 
men of considerable influence and ability, successful in 

23 The whole relationship is worked out in New Hampshire State 
Papers, XXVIII: vi-vii. Those four were Moffat, Wallingford, 
Mason, and Thomlinson. The interest in the Propriety acquired by- 
Mason and Thomlinson was the natural consequence of their earlier 
connection with the patent. 


business, conservative in temperament, and considerate in 
their dealings with the people. 24 

The territory over which they claimed jurisdiction was 
still very vague in many respects and caused much con- 
troversies in the later years. The western boundary was 
run in 1751, with the consent of the Government of New 
Hampshire, and was as follows : beginning at a point on 
the southern boundary of the Province, at the southwest 
of Monadnock No. 4, it ran north along the western 
boundary of that town and four others that had been pre- 
viously laid out by the Propriety, then cut through Lake 
Sunapee and was continued until Baker's Pond (Newfound 
Lake) was reached. This was a curved line, as the Pro- 
prietors contended that no other line could be drawn which 
could preserve a uniform distance of sixty miles from the 
sea as described in the grant to Mason. 25 In 1768 the line 
was run from the northeasterly boundary of the Province 
to the Pemigiwasset River and in 1769 the Proprietors 
ordered it to be continued from that point to the south- 
western boundary of their grant, bordering on Massachu- 
setts. 26 The whole question, however, was not successfully 
settled until after the Revolution, when in 1788 a final 
agreement was reached between the Masonian Proprietors 
and the New Hampshire Government. 27 

24 Fry, op. cit., 311. 

25 Fry, op. cit., 313; New Hampshire State Papers, XXIX: 30, 
65, 309, 381, 438, 444. 

26 New Hampshire State Papers, XXIX : 308. Map on 306. 

27 Fry, op. cit., Zllff. After much controversy, a committee was 
appointed in 1787 and in June, 1788, an agreement was reached 
whereby the State released to the Masonian Proprietors all its 
rights and titles to the lands between the straight and curved lines 
which the Proprietors still claimed in consideration of the payment 
of $800 with interest within a year and $40,000 in State notes 
within four years. See New Hampshire State Papers, XXIX: 340, 
342, 601-606, 654. Map is on the page 338. 


The Masonian Proprietors were organized as any other 
propriety of the period and enjoyed the privilege of a 
corporate body. Their chief duty related to the land 
grants which will be treated elsewhere. Notwithstanding 
the occasional appearance of the ghost of the old Allen 
claim, the Masonian Proprietors successfully maintained 
their title against all comers without any very serious dis- 
turbance for some forty years, 28 during which time they 
disposed of the greater part of their holdings. They held 
regular meetings until 1846, when the records disappear. 29 


The Kennebec Proprietors traced their claims back to a 
grant made by the Council for New England and several 
Indian deeds. On Jan. 13, 1629-30, the Council for New 
England made a grant to William Bradford and his 
Pilgrim associates "of all that Tract of land or part of 
New England in America . . . which lyeth within or 
betweene and Extendeth itSelf from the utmost of Cobess- 
cont . . . Which adjoyneth to the River Kenibeck towards 
the Western Ocean and a place called the falls of Nequam- 
kick in America . . . and the Space of ffifteen English 
milles on Each Side of the said Riuer called Kennebeck. ' ' 30 
In 1640, Bradford and his associates surrendered this 
grant on the Kennebec River to all the freemen of the 

2« The Allen claim was revived in the eighties and finally settled 
in 1790. New Hampshire State Papers, XVIII: 767, 768, 769; 
XXIX: 281-288, 313-334, 335#\ The final deed of Allen's heirs 
to the Proprietors was dated Jan. 28, 1790. Ibid., XXIX: 345- 

29 The records of the Masonian Proprietors' meetings are printed 
in New Hampshire State Papers, XXIX: 401-644. 

3 The deed is in Documentary History of Maine, VII (Farnham 
Papers)-. 108-116. 


Colony of New Plymouth. 31 In 1648 and 1653 the Colony 
obtained from the Indians the deeds of land extending from 
Cushnec, now Augusta, to Wesserumkike or Wesserunsett, 
where the northern limit of the patent was finally fixed 
and which is a stream emptying into the Kennebec, a 
short distance below the village of Norridgewok. 32 On 
June 6, 1660, the Plymouth Colony voted to sell the patent 
for £500 and next year sold the whole right to the patent 
to Antipas Boies, Edward Tyng, Thomas Brattle, and John 
Winthrop for a sum of £400 sterling. The additional In- 
dian purchases were also included in the transaction. From 
that date until the middle of the next century the whole 
patent lay perfectly dormant and nothing was heard of it. 
The demands for lands and the speculative movement 
of the time at last aroused the descendants of the pur- 
chasers in 1749. A warrant was issued upon petition and 
in September nine persons met to organize a Propriety. 33 
In December they appointed a committee to take charge of 
the affairs of the Propriety, moved to admit new proprie- 
tors, and voted to grant a township on ' ' Commeseconte, ' ' 
offering a bounty of 200 acres to each settler. 34 During the 
following three years they kept admitting new members, 
granted lands for settlements, offered inducements and 
settled Germans on their territory, took up the defense of 
the settlers, and started the campaign to clear their title 
from all other encroachments. 35 But it was not till 1753 
that they were finally constituted a legally organized 

si The deed is dated March 2, 1649-41. Ibid., 256-259. 

33 Gardiner, History of Kennebec Purchase, 275. 

33 Eecords of Proprietors of the Kennebec Purchase, 1749-1822, 
Mss. (hereafter cited as Kennebec Proprietors ' Eecords, Mss.), I: 
1-2, 3, 4. 

uibid., I: 6. 

ssibid., I: 48, 50, 54, 58, 72, 91, 102-103, etc. A brief narrative 
is in North, History of Augusta, Slff., quoting proprietors ' records. 


Propriety. In June of that year, taking advantage of a 
Massachusetts law lately enacted, the Proprietors met and 
legally organized "The Proprietors of the Kennebec Pur- 
chase from the late Colony of New Plymouth." All de- 
scendants of the four purchasers were urged to join the 
organization and in December they made a list of thirty- 
three names as the original Proprietors of the Kennebec 
Purchase, known also as the Plymouth Company. Of these 
Proprietors the more influential and large shareholders 
were William Brattle, Robert Temple, Jacob Wendell, 
Sylvester Gardiner, Charles Apthorp, Florentius Vassal, 
Thomas Hancock, Edward Tyng, William Bowdoin, Samuel 
Goodwin, Benjamin Hallow and William Johnson. 36 

The Kennebec Purchase Proprietors were the most power- 
ful of the Great Proprietors of the period and from 1752 
onward they vigorously pushed the interest of the Company 
in settling the territory which they claimed. Not only did 
the Company grant townships and land freely, but they 
also spent large sums of money and offered inducements to 
the settlers, even provisions and defense; they built two 
forts on the Kennebec River and thereby helped the prob- 
lem of the Province defense ; before 1766 they successfully 
carried through four controversies against different claim- 
ants upon their territory, not to mention numerous other 
smaller law suits in which they became involved. 37 As an 

36 The others who were active in the Company 's affairs were 
James Pitts, James Bowdoin, Belcher Noyes, Gershom Flagg, and 
David Jeffries. Kennebec Purchase Proprietors' Eecords, Mss., IT, 
passim. North, op. cit., 285#\ The Company was divided into 192 
shares and the above named proprietors held more than seven each. 
The manner in which these thirty-three descended from the original 
four purchasers is carefully traced in North, op. cit., 282-285. 
Biographies are given, ibid., 186ff. 

37 These respective subjects are covered in detail elsewhere at 
proper places. 


evidence of vigorous measures adopted by the Company, 
it may be mentioned that, in the eleven years during which 
Dr. Sylvester Gardiner managed the Company's concerns, 
£5,000 were assessed on the shares of the Company, all of 
which were expended in promoting the prosperity of the 
patent. 38 By the end of the French and Indian War, they 
had successfully caused to be settled no less than eleven 
townships, some of them flourishing towns. 39 

The meetings of the Company continued regularly from 
1749 until they were finally closed in 1822. 


The history of the Pejepscot Proprietors dates back to 
1632 when the Council for England granted a patent to 
Thomas Purchase and George Way. The grant included 
the territory at Pejepscot, on both sides of the Androscogin 
River. 40 A portion of this grant reverted to the Govern- 
ment of the Massachusetts Bay in 1639 41 and the titles were 
obtained through a series of Indian purchases. Between the 
years 1669 and 1676 several small purchases were made of 
the Indians by Thomas Gyles, James Gyles, John Thomas, 
and Samuel Yoke as partners. 42 In 1675 Thomas Pur- 
chase acquired an additional territory by an Indian pur- 
chase, as also did Thomas Stevens. Stevens sold his part 
in 1676 to Lancellot Pierce, upon which transaction William 
Pierce claimed his right in the patent in 1715. Nicholas 
Shapleigh made another purchase from the Indians about 
1659 while Nicholas Cole and John Purrington purchased 

38 See Gardiner, op. cit., II: 279. 

39 The Massachusetts Gazette and Boston News-Letter, June 6, 

■*o Documentary History of Maine VII (Farnham Papers) : 177- 

^Ibid., VII: 243-244. 

" Maine Historical Society, Collections, XXIV : 386. 


several other tracts in 1672. This is quite characteristic 
of the period ; every one purchased freely from the Indians, 
the deeds of which were generally vague and proved to be 
the invariable source of many a boundary dispute in the 
next century. 

In 1683 Richard Wharton purchased all these titles in 
rapid succession: Shapleigh sold his share first on July 
4th; the Way share with Purchase in the original patent 
was disposed of on October 10th for £100; while the ad- 
ministratrix of Thomas Purchase sold the latter 's right to 
an Indian purchase fifteen days later. These purchases 
were confirmed by the English Government and the terri- 
tory comprised the whole of what is now the township of 
Harpswell, the greater portion of Brunswick, and a tract 
on the river in what is now Topsham. 43 To this tract 
Wharton added, in 1684, another large tract through pur- 
chases from six Indian chiefs. 44 Before he could do any- 
thing with the territory he had thus acquired, Wharton 
died in England without issue in 1693 and Ephraim Savage 
of Boston became the administrator. Four years later the 
superior court at Boston authorized the latter to sell the 
same. 45 All this time there was nothing but confusion from 
the several ambiguous purchases and grants. Nothing 
was done and the title slept in silence. 

These dormant titles were revived in 1714 just at the 
time when the conclusion of the peace of Utrecht opened 
up a new period of expansion toward the frontiers. On 
the 5th of November of that year, Savage sold the whole 

43p e jepseot Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 1-4, 5-7, 7-11; Maine 
Historical Society, Collections, XXIV: 200-204, 204-207, 207-211; 
III: 325-328. 

44 Pejepscot Proprietors' Eeeords, Mss., I: 11-14; Maine His- 
torical Society, Collections, XXIV: 211-217. 

45 Pejepscot Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 16-17; Maine His- 
torical Society, Collections, XXIV: 217-218. 


of the above mentioned tract with patent and deeds for 
£140 to Thomas Hutchinson, Adam Winthrop, John Watts, 
David Jeffries, Stephen Minot, Oliver Noyes, and John 
Ruck of Boston and John Wentworth of Portland. 48 
These eight merchants then met and organized the original 
Company of Pejepscot Proprietors. The Wharton heirs 
quit-claimed their rights in February, 1715, in return for 
which the Proprietors granted them several tracts of land, 47 
while during the following year, 1716, several claimants 
of the territory also deeded their rights to the Proprietors. 48 
The Massachusetts General Court confirmed the purchase 
in 1715, 49 thus giving the Propriety a legal start. 

The course of the Pejepscot Proprietors, thus inaugu- 
rated, 50 was not an uneventful one. They had, however, 
contributed much to the settlement of the eastern country by 
building forts, by offering lands and inducements to 
settlers, and by bringing in Scotch-Irish immigrants. But 
on the other hand their life was an uphill fight. Their 
claims were based mainly upon several confusing purchases 
from the Indians and one contest after another was in store 
for them, many ending in law suits which were bitterly 
contested. Particularly strenuous was the controversy 
with the more powerful Kennebec Purchase Proprietors, 

46 Pejepscot Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 17-24; Maine His- 
torical Society, Collections, XXIV: 218-227, 231-233. 

47 Pejepscot Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 29-32, 33, 34. 

48 Ibid., I: 59-66, 71-76, 76-78, 78, 84, 86, etc. 

49 Ibid., I: 34-37. Wheeler, History of Brunswick, Topsham, 
and Earpwell, 2S4ff. 

50 The first legal meeting, however, was not held until June 1, 
1757, when they voted "That all Matters and things transacted 
by the Proprietors at their past Meetings be & hereby are ratified 
& confirmed." Pejepscot Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 185-186. 
The future meeting was to be called by the standing committee 
of their appointment upon 21 days notice in Boston papers. Pejep- 
scot Proprietors' Records, Mss. 


which controversy only ended in a disastrous compromise. 51 
It is important to note that their existence was chiefly 
speculative and as such they accomplished their end by 
dividing the lands among themselves and selling them at 
profit. 52 Naturally the shareholders kept changing and 
by 1737 there were thirteen Proprietors of whom only two 
were original members while the others were either the 
heirs or the purchasers of the rights. 53 By 1743, only six 
years later, another change was evident. In that year 
there were thirteen Proprietors, but only three of them were 
original members and the rest were new. Benning Went- 
worth, the coming Governor of New Hampshire, and 
Thomas Westbrook, a speculator of Portsmouth and a pro- 
prietor of no less than ten New Hampshire townships 
granted by Gov. Wentworth, appear on the role of the Pro- 
prietors, the former holding one-eighth of the Company's 
share and the latter one-twenty-fourth. Moreover three 
members, namely, Adam Winthrop who held one-eighth, 
Oliver Noyes who held one-twenty-fourth, and Thomas 
Westbrook, were the leading members of the Lincolnshire 
Company and Twenty Associates. 54 Nothing except the 
spirit of speculation can explain these changes in so short 
a period and the duplication of memberships among the 
two leading proprieties. 

The Company lasted until the early part of the nine- 
si These subjects are treated elsewhere. 

5 2 For example, Pejepscot Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 70-71, 
84-85, 96-97, 99, 127#\, etc. 

53 Pejepscot Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 123. 

s* The division of shares in 1743 is interesting: Adam Winthrop, 
1/8; Oliver Noyes, 1/24; and John "Watts, 1/36 were of the original 
proprietors. The others were: Benning Wentworth, 1/8; Job 
Lewis, 1/8; Hanna Fayrweather, 1/8; Isaac Royal, 5/24; Joseph 
Wadsworth, 1/24; Henry Gibbs, 1/24; Belcher Noyes, 1/24; Wil- 
liam Skinner, 1/36; Lydia Skinner, 1/36; Thomas Westbrook, 
1/24. Ibid., I: 123. 


teenth century. In 1817 the Proprietors sold at auction five 
townships and completed the work of the Company. 55 
The next year, on June 5th, they met for the last time 
and disbanded. 56 


The Lincolnshire Company Proprietors, otherwise known 
as the Waldo Patentees or Muscongus Proprietors, had 
their origin in a grant of territory made by the Council for 
New England on March 13, 1630, to John Beauchamp of 
London and Thomas Leverett of Boston in Lincolnshire, 
England. It comprised a large territory between the Mus- 
congus and Penobscot Rivers. 57 When Beauchamp died, 
the whole patent devolved upon Leverett who left it to his 
heirs in 1650. The patent then passed to Gov. John Lever- 
ett as a lineal descendant and in 1714 to President John 
Leverett of Harvard College, a great grandson of the origi- 
nal patentee. All this time the patent was dormant as in 
other cases already mentioned and no improvement whatso- 
ever was planned. 

In 1719 Pres. Leverett, in view of the value of the terri- 
tory therein contained, took measures to revive and resettle 
the patent. He accordingly parcelled the whole grant into 
ten equal shares and admitted other direct and lineal de- 
scendants of Thomas Leverett in a land company known as 
"The Lincolnshire Company and Ten Associates." John 
Leverett and Elisha Cook both reserved two shares each, 
while John Bradford, Spencer Phips, Nathaniel Hubbard, 

55 Those townships were Lisbon, Durham, Green, Lewiston, and 
Leeds, all in Maine. Ibid., II: 107. 

B6J6id., II: 106. 

• r, 7 The deed is in Documentary History of Maine, VII (Famham 
Papers) : 125-128. 


and Leverett's three daughters held one each. 58 These 
were the original "Ten Associates" and they, on August 
15, 1719, admitted twenty associates and formed "The 
Muscongus or Lincolnshire Company and the Twenty As- 
sociates." These proprietors were all Bostonians except 
four who lived in Portsmouth, N. H., Hingham and Salem, 
Mass., and Newport, R. I. Each held one-thirtieth part 
of the Company's interest except four who shared two 
rights. 59 It was agreed at the outset that each Proprietor 
should have equal right according to the shares held and 
that the major votes should determine the general policy 
of the Company. 00 From that date on the shares kept 
changing hands by inheritance and purchase and by 1767 
there were no less than sixty-five Proprietors, each holding 
a fractional part of a share. 01 

Capt. Samuel Waldo, while in England as an agent in 
the proceeding against David Dunbar, also served the in- 
terest of the Lincolnshire Company. This was due to Dun- 
bar's aggression upon Lincolnshire Company's land, his 
extortions becoming so disastrous to the interest of the 
Proprietors. Upon revocation of Dunbar's authority and 
securing of the confirmation of their patent, Waldo was 
given as reward one-half of the whole patent. 02 In 1734 
the patent was divided and Samuel Waldo bought 100,000 
acres in addition, while 200,000 acres still remained with 

5 8 The deed is dated August 14, 1719. Eecords of the Lincoln- 
shire Company and the Twenty Associates, 1766-1794, Mss. (here- 
after cited as Lincolnshire Company Eecords, Mss.), 8-10. Elisha 
Cook was a son of Elizabeth, a daughter of John Leverett; Hub- 
bard married the second daughter of Leverett; Bradford was the 
son of William Leverett. 

5 9 Lincolnshire Company Eecords, Mss., 11-13. 

eo The agreement is dated September 1, 1719. Ibid., 26-30. 

eilfetd., 33-35. 

62 Warren, History of Belfast, I: 41. 


the other Proprietors of the Company. 63 Waldo thus be- 
came a dominating figure in the Company, owning nearly 
two-thirds of the whole interest. The Company thus be- 
came commonly known as the Waldo Patentees. Waldo's 
activities in connection with the Company, which will be 
noted elsewhere, were remarkable, particularly in inducing 
foreign immigrants to settle upon the Muscongus territory. 
When Samuel Waldo died in 1759, his shares in the Com- 
pany descended to his four children. These shares were 
then bought up by Thomas Flucker with whom one of 
Waldo's daughters married. The affairs of the Lincoln- 
shire Company, in the meanwhile were managed by the 
standing committee but the Company became very feeble 
after Waldo's death. 64 Delinquencies increased and the 
shares began to be sold out in order to meet the expense of 
the Company. 65 Upon the outbreak of the Revolutionary 
War, however, the whole territory became forfeited on the 
ground of being Tory property. When the war was over 
Gen. Henry Knox, to whom Lucy Flucker married, bought 
four-fifths of the whole patent, while the remainder was 
the property of his wife by right of inheritance. Thus 
the interest of the Company gradually dwindled down until 
1804 when the last of the unsold land was disposed of and 
the activities of the Company were closed. 66 

«3 Lincolnshire Company Records, Mss., 53. In 1768 final survey 
was made and in 1773, 100,000 acres were set off to the "Ten 
Associates" and another 100,000 acres to the "Twenty Asso- 
ciates." Ibid., 53-54-55, 57, 59, 68. 

e* Ibid., 33-35, 38-39, 79, 81, 85-86. 

65 For example, in 1768, one share was sold for £920 O. T. to de- 
fray the Company's expenses in the face of delinquencies. Ibid., 
80-81, 85, 86-89. 

66 Miller, History of Waldoboro, Maine, 8; Maine Historical 
Society, Collections, IX: 227jf; Williamson, History of Belfast, 
I: 45-46. Henry Knox bought two-fifths for $5,200 in 1792 and 
another two-fifths in 1793. 



The Pemaquid Proprietors also traced their origin back 
to a grant of the Council for New England, made on Feb. 
29, 1631-2, to Robert Aldworth and Giles Elbridge. 67 The 
territory comprised some 12,000 acres of land at Pemaquid, 
very vague in its boundary. As in the other cases the 
patent was split and sold from one person to another. All 
these sales, however, were brought together into one hand 
by Nicholas Davison between 1653 and 1657 and he became 
the practical owner of the whole patent. 68 When Davison 
died, he left by his will the whole of his shares in three 
equal parts to his wife, son, and daughter. In this condi- 
tion the patent remained dormant, as in other cases, until 
the first half of the following century. 69 

The territory of the Pemaquid patent was very small 
when compared with the other dormant patents of similar 
origin. But, in the face of land hunger and the speculative 
spirit of the time, great value was attached to it. Accord- 
ingly the heirs of Nicholas Davison revived the claims in 
1735 and appointed Shem Drowne their attorney to investi- 
gate their title and to organize them into a Propriety. The 
organization was not consummated, however, until 1743. 
On August 31 of that year, the first meeting was called but 
only six claimants appeared and after three ineffective at- 
tempts at adjourned meetings, the Proprietors finally met 

67 The deed is in Documentary History of Maine, VII (Farnham 
Papers) : 165-172. 

68 In 1651, Thomas Elbridge sold one-half of his share to Paul 
White, the latter selling it again to Eichard Russel and Nicholas 
Davison in 1653. In 1657 Richard Russel sold his quarter sharo 
to Davison, while Thomas Elbridge sold his half to the same per- 
son during the same year. Maine Historical Society, Collections, 
V: 207-214. 

69 The story of these titles is given in the Report of the Commis- 
sioners of 1811, 33-54. 


on November 15th and legally organized themselves as 
the "Pemaquid Proprietors." 70 There were twenty-one 
Proprietors in all and the shares were divided into ninety. 
Of these Habijah Savage with thirty shares, Shem Drowne 
with twenty-three, and George Craddock and Adam Win- 
throp with five shares each were the largest shareholders. 71 
Shem Drowne was elected clerk and entrusted with the plan 
of 9,000 acres for the first division, which division was made 
on December 5th, showing how eager were the Proprietors 
to get land for themselves. 72 Before March 6, 1744, two 
other divisions were consummated and the greater portion 
of the territory was divided up among themselves. 73 

The activity of the Propriety was small when compared 
with those of the other Great Proprietors, particularly 
with reference to the settlement of the territory. This was 
due partly to the early division of the territory among the 
individual, Proprietors as noted above and partly to the 

to Pemaquid Proprietors ' Book of Eecords, 1743-1774, Mss. (here- 
after cited as Pemaquid Proprietors' Eecords, Mss.), I: 1-2. 
The adjourned meetings were held on September 22, October 20, 
and November 1. 

7i The others were: 2% shares each — John Alford and Joshua 
Winslow, Sarah Sweetzer, John Phillips, Joanna Phillips, Benjamin 
Stevens, Ezekiel Chever; 2 shares each — Lonas Clark, Samuel 
Clark, John Chandler; 1 share each — Thomas Ruck, Joseph Fitch, 
John Kneeland, Anderson Phillips, Henry Phillips, Timothy Par- 
rot; Abigail Tillden, and Christopher Tillden held one share jointly. 

It is to be noted that Adam Winthrop was a member of two other 
Proprieties, namely, the Lincolnshire Company and the Pejepscot 

7 2 Dec. 5, 1743. Pemaquid Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 4-5. 
Ninety 100 acres lots were drawn. Savage drew twenty-nine lots 
and Drowne twenty-two. Already a new name appeared in the 
person of Lydia who drew fifteen lots. Evidently many of the pro- 
prietors ventured speculation and sold out since November 15th. 

73 The second division was made on Jan. 3, and the third on 
March 6, 1744. Pemaquid Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 6-7, 8-9. 


disputed title. In fact the history of the Pemaquid Pro- 
prietors from the date of their organization till their close 
is the history of boundary controversies, uncertain claims, 
and innumerable law suits. Nearly every grant which had 
been made by the Pemaquid Proprietors seems to have 
brought up the question of validity against some other 
organizations, notably the Kennebec Purchase Proprietors, 
the Pejepscot Company, or the Lincolnshire Company. 74 
To these legal matters we will return later. 


The Great Proprietors invariably claimed and controlled 
a large tract of lands and their chief activities consisted of 
the disposal and the settlement of their territories. In the 
disposition of lands they adopted the similar method which 
the general courts practiced, namely, granting townships 
to a group of proprietors and granting smaller tracts to 
individuals. The only difference between these two bodies 
was in the fact that the Great Proprietors did not have 
any governmental jurisdiction over their grantees; their 
powers were merely territorial and with the grant the 
grantees passed into the jurisdiction of the general court. 

Most active in the field of creating townships among the 
Great Proprietors were the Masonian Proprietors. Imme- 

7* For example, on August 5, 1763, the proprietors made a grant 
of 100 acres to Charles Liesner. Complications followed with the 
Waldo Patentees and after a troublesome negotiation an equiva- 
lent grant was made on August 18th. Pemaquid Proprietors 7 Rec- 
ords, Mss., I: 39, 40-41. 

Thus, whenever the proprietors made any grant, they either 
added that they will defend the grant in legal complications at 
their expenses or that they will be responsible for whatever hap- 
pens thereupon and the damages therefor. Pemaquid Proprietors' 
Records, Mss. I: 44, 59, etc. 


diately upon the formation of the Propriety in 1746, the 
Masonian Proprietors successfully assumed and exercised 
the powers of disposing of their remaining land under the 
Mason title. After quitclaiming their power over the lands 
and improvements within the organized towns of the Prov- 
ince, they began to grant townships. Within six months 
of their organization they received petitions from no less 
than thirty-one townships and thirteen individuals, 75 and 
they granted five townships in 1748, thirteen in 1749, six 
in 1750, and thirty from 1751 to 1773, in all fifty-four 
townships. 76 Of these the more important ones, comparable 
to the Massachusetts line townships in New Hampshire, 
were the tiers of eight townships called the Monadnoek 
townships, granted between 1749 and 1752 as follows : No. 
1 (or South Monadnoek), Rindge, 1750; No. 2 (or Middle 
Monadnoek), Jaffrey, 1749; No. 3 (or North Monadnoek), 
Dublin, 1749 ; No. 4, Fitzwilliam, 1752 ; No. 5, Marlborough, 
1752; No. 6, Nelson, 1752; No. 7, Stoddard, 1752; and No. 
8, Washington, 1752. The number of proprietors in these 
townships varied from thirty to sixty, forty being the pre- 
vailing number. 

All these grants were decidedly speculative and numerous 
regrants were accordingly necessary. Nothing in the na- 
ture of quit rents, which were characteristic of the New 
Hampshire Province charters, was reserved in these Mason- 
ian grants, but fifteen Proprietors' shares were reserved in 
every grant, free from all taxation until improved. More- 
over, two additional shares were also reserved in a majority 
of the Masonian townships as "law lots." These were 
granted to Mathew Livermore and William Parker, the 
attorneys of the propriety, for their legal services. The 

75 Reported on Dec. 7, 1748. New Hampshire State Papers, 
XXIX: 234-237. 

76 All Masonian town charters are conveniently collected in New 
Hampshire State Papers, XXVII-XXVIII. 


conditions of grants, with the exception of these few items, 
were similar to those of the other colonies of the period. 
In addition, all white pine trees were reserved for the 
crown, as in the New Hampshire Province charters. 

Toward the Massachusetts grants in New Hampshire 
they took a very lenient attitude, confirming their original 
rights or giving equivalent privilege in some other 
townships. Where resistance was made by the grantees, 
troubles, even law suits, followed in which the Proprietors 
were always victorious. 77 

As it has been noted above, the Masonian Proprietors 
thus correspond to the colonial governments in the matter 
of granting land. They were the grantors, and not gran- 
tees, of numerous townships of the eighteenth century. As 
such they had no obligation to fulfill except to supervise 
the settlements, to hear complaints of the grantees, and to 
do justice to them as any other general courts. But the 
Masonian Proprietors could not invest their grantees with 
the political or municipal privileges incident to the town- 
ships as did the New Hampshire Province in many of its 
grants ; the grantees under the former had to apply to the 
New Hampshire government for these rights. 

The grants of land and townships which were made by 
the Kennebec Purchase Proprietors were mainly used to 
further their speculative interest. In order to settle their 
territories and thereby increase the value of each Proprie- 
tor's shares, they freely offered land on condition of actual 
settlement within a short period. For example, between 
1752 and 1753, they granted no less than six townships. In 
March, 1752, they granted a tract of five miles square to 
three persons in Massachusetts, on condition that the gran- 
tees introduce one hundred settlers in three years; in 

77 A brief survey of these several points may be found ibid., 
XXVIII: vi-viii. 


October of that year, they granted three townships, respec- 
tively, to John Stedman of Rotterdam, Germany, Gershom 
Flagg, and Henry Ehrenfield of Frankfort, Germany, on 
the same conditions ; in June, 1753, they voted to grant to 
all persons who had settled on their land without permission 
of the Company previous to the year 1749 the land which 
they had improved, upon petition; the following month, 
they granted 21,000 acres to three persons, on a similar con- 
dition as above, but with the understanding that, in case 
they can not fulfill the conditions, they shall have grants 
of land in proportion to the number of settlers introduced ; 
in following June, they granted a township to Florentius 
Vassal on the same condition. 78 Nothing, however, was 
done in any of these grants and the scheme fell through; 
and it was not till after 1753 that any successful attempt 
was actually made. 79 

No less active were the Pejepscot Proprietors in granting 
land. In 1714 the Massachusetts General Court resolved to 
sell her eastern country and appointed a committee to re- 
ceive the claims of all persons in that district. The Pejeps- 
cot Proprietors, in their enthusiasm for the new vision 
before them, not only filed their claims but also proposed a 
definite plan. They proposed that the General Court 
should (1) confirm their purchase, (2) encourage a fishing 
town at Small Point, (3) protect settlers when there are 
more than twelve settled in the district, (4) give public 
help to the settlers in their maintenance of a ministry, and 
(5) exempt them from any Province tax for seven years. 
In return the Proprietors agreed (1) to survey and lay out, 
at their own cost, three or four townships; (2) in seven 

78 Kennebec Purchase Proprietors' Records, Mss., 1: 123, 151-152; 
II: 3-4, 11, 24. Gardiner, History of Kennebec Purchase, II: 

79 These successful attempts will be related in connection with 
their activities in inducing immigrants. See below 258^. 


years, if peaceful, to settle fifty families in each with neces- 
sary inducements and in a defensible manner; (3) to lay 
out land for minister, ministry, and school; and (4) to 
furnish materials for the meeting house and pay £40 toward 
the maintenance of an ' ' orthodox gospel minister ' ' for five 
years. The committee of the Court reported favorably 
upon the plan and the Proprietors' purchase was confirmed, 
exempting the settlers from the Province tax for five 
years. 80 Having thus been given legal encouragement, the 
Proprietors immediately launched a campaign for settle- 
ment and placed large advertisements in the Boston news- 
papers, giving land and offering inducements for settlers 
in tune with the proposal they had made to the General 
Court. 81 

The way the Lincolnshire Company Proprietors worked 
was similar to that of the other Great Proprietors. In 1729, 
for example, the committee "to manage and bring forward 
the Settlements" reported and the Proprietors agreed (1) 
to ' ' grant Gratis ' ' 120 acres, as far as 120 families, to each 
person who will build a house within one year of his arrival, 
settle a family, and inhabit there for three years ' ' provided 
they are of ability to support & subsist themselves"; (2) 
to reserve lots for minister and school; (3) to pay the first 
settled minister £50 per annum for two years; (4) to build 
a saw mill; and (5) to keep a sloop running between Bos- 
ton and the St. George River. 82 Thomas Westbrook was 
one of the active agents in the Company's interest. As 
early as 1720 it was agreed that he should settle twenty-five 
families on the St. George River, each family building a 

80 Confirmed on May 25, 1715. Pejepscot Proprietors ' Records, 
Mss., I: 37-41. Mass. Acts and Resolves, IX: 319, 337, 379, 
395-396, etc. 

81 Pejepscot Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 44-45, 46. 

8 2 Lincolnshire Company Miscellaneous Papers, 1717-1802, Mss., 
Dec. 29, 1729. 


dwelling house, improving land for three years, while 
Westbrook was to reside there two or three years "for the 
encouragement." In return the Associates granted West- 
brook 10,000 acres of land "to be disposed of by him in 
such proportion as he shall find necessary for encouraging" 
the settlements and to keep the remainder for himself for- 
ever. The Associates promised two "Great Guns" for a 
blockhouse when Westbrook built one. 83 Next year he was 
at work and was attempting to bring about, first of all, a 
friendly relation with the Indians on the St. George 
River. 84 In 1720 also one Robert Edwards of Castleburg, 
Ireland, was appointed an agent of the Company to settle 
two townships and was granted a large tract of land for the 
purpose. 85 The work was slow as in other cases but still 
th£y proceeded vigorously in order to get the value of 
their own land increased as a result of settlement. 


"Whereas, Numbers of Gentlemen Proprietors of Land Within 
this Province have expressed their Inclination and Intention to 
several members of the United Society to settle their unimproved 
Lands with Germans and other Protestants, on advantageous terms 
to the Settlers; and as the arrival of a considerable Number of 
Foreign Protestants is daily expected; These therefore are to re- 
quest said Gentlemen and other Proprietors that are alike minded, 
to send in their Proposals in Writing; and therein particularly to 
express the Quality and Quantity of the Land they would dispose 
of, with their Situation, whether East or West, &c, and what dis- 
tance from Boston, and other town of Note, whether on a Bay or 
River, or of otherwise, what Distance from Water-Oarriage or Land- 
ing Place &c, as also what Encouragement they'l give said Settlers, 
withe regard to Building, Stock, Utensils, &c. 

N. B. Birest or John Franklin, in Comhill, Boston. 7 ' 

**Ibid., June 4, 1720. 
s* Ibid. 

85 Ibid., March 7, 1720. This subject will be treated elsewhere 
in connection with immigration. 


This 86 is one of many advertisements which appear in 
the Boston newspapers of the fifties. The phrase ' ' Gentle- 
men Proprietors," refers to the Great Proprietors whose 
effort to settle their Maine lands with foreign immigrants, 
contributed a bright page in the history of the speculative 
proprietors of the eighteenth century. The movement 
started earlier than the above advertisement, however; as 
early as 1718 such method was used effectively. 87 

The Pejepscot Proprietors were the first of the Great Pro- 
prietors to become interested in the foreign immigrants as 
a possibility in the settlement of their land. Just about 
that time, in 1717, a dramatic figure appeared in Boston in 
the person of Capt. Robert Temple, later one of the largest 
shareholders of the Kennebec Purchase Company. He had 
been an officer in the English army and came to America 
with a view of establishing himself as a large landed pro- 
prietor, a purpose which naturally aroused the interest of 
those who had lands for sale. He was thus shown lands in 
Connecticut, especially the Winthrop holdings in New Lon- 
don, and the lands of the Pejepscot Proprietors in Maine. 
The Pejepscot Proprietors were already offering large 
privileges and inducements to settlers and finally won Tem- 
ple to work in their interest in the competition against 
John Winthrop, represented by Thomas Lechmere, his 
brother-in-law and the Surveyor General of Customs at 

The way Temple actually worked may be shown by an 
example of the vessel "McCallum" which arrived at Boson 
on Sept. 1, 1718, with some twenty Scotch-Irish families. 
Temple was again urged by Lechmere to send the immi- 
grants to Connecticut but more attractive inducements were 
being offered by the Pejepscot Proprietors. In disappoint- 

ss The Boston Post Boy, Sept. 16, 1751. 

87 See Bolton, Scotch Irish Pioneers, 140-141. 


ment Lechmere wrote to Winthrop on September 1, 1718, 
and among other things said : 88 

"You would aggrieve to their Settling about Tantiusques, w h in 
my Opinion is y e best place, & Mr- Temple is doing what he can 
still to perswade y e M r - to proceed for that place, ... Ye method 
they go in w th y e Irish is they sell y m so many Acres of Land for 
12 d y e acre & allow y m time to pay j t in. I know Land is more 
Valuable w th You, & therefore I am afraid 'twill be y e more difficult 
to agree with y m . " 

Temple rejected the Connecticut proposals and made ar- 
rangements by which the "McCallum" left Boston on Sep- 
tember 8th with her Scotch-Irish passengers to the Merry- 
making Bay at the mouth of the Androscoggin River in 
Maine. Henceforth Temple became an active colonizer of 
the Kennebec country and engaged two large ships in 1718 
and three more in 1719 to bring over families from Ulster. 
By 1720, he had introduced upward of 100 Scotch-Irish 
families on the Kennebec and Androscoggin sections. Thus 
were fostered the settlements at Cork, Topsham, Bath, 
Brunswick, and others. 89 

This was the period when the first wave of the Scotch- 
Irish Immigration reached Boston ; in 1718 alone some 6,800 

z*Ibid., 143; Ford, Scotch Irish in America, 133. 

Earlier still, on July 28, 1718, Lechmere wrote to Winthrop: 
"They are none to be sold, have all paid their passages sterls in 
Ireland; they come upon some encouragement to settle upon some 
unimprove Lands, upon what other Towns I know not. " On Au- 
gust 11 of the same year, he again wrote that "they are come over 
hither for no other reason but upon Encouragement sent from hence 
upon notice given y m they should have so many acres of Land given 
them gratis to settle our frontiers as a barrier against y e Indians.' ' 
Bolton, op cit., 133, 139, quoting. 

89 Bolton, op. cit., 144, 218-219; Eord, op. cit., 230-231, 234-235; 
Hanna, Scotch Irish in America, II: 24; Maine Historical Society, 
Collections, Second Series, IV: 240. 


arrived at Boston. Advertisements were used to invite 
them to different places and some went to Casco Bay, Maine, 
and others to the Kennebec and Merrimac valleys. It was 
at this time that Londonderry, N. H. was granted to them 
by Massachusetts and the settlement founded. The second 
wave which reached Boston in 1719-20, was mainly sent to 
Worcester and to Connecticut towns. 90 That there were 
many proprietary inducements for settlements being offered 
to them may be seen from the correspondences of Lechmere 
to Winthrop. On July 28, 1718, he wrote that 91 

"they are none to be sold, have all paid their passage sterle 
in Ireland; they come upon some encouragement to settle upon 
some unimproved Lands, upon what other Towns I know not. ' ' 

On the 11th of following August he again wrote, denying 
the cheapness of labor "for never were they dearer than 
now, there being so much demand for them, ' ' and affirming 
that they "are come over hither for no other reason but 
upon encouragement sent from hence. ' ' 92 

More brilliant were the activities of Samuel Waldo and 
the Proprietors of the Lincolnshire Company. The Lin- 
colnshire Proprietors, during the years 1720-1730, offered 

9° Hanna, op. cit., II: 17 'ff.; Bolton, op. cit., 140, 141; Mass. 
House Journal (Ford Edition), II: 65, 83. For numerous peti- 
tions for grants of land to these immigrants, see Mass. House 
Journal (Ford Edition), II: 91, 134, 212, 318, etc. 

The Scotch-Irish immigrants who settled at Worcester, Mass., 
numbering about forty to sixty families, bought of Col. John Stod- 
dard and others of Northampton a township, consisting of 29,874 
acres in 1738 for £7,300. The township, now Pelham, Mass., was 
settled by them that same year by thirty-four families. The other 
group went to Colrain during the same year. Hanna, op. cit., II: 
20; Ford, op. cit., 227-228; Connecticut Valley Historical Society, 
Proceedings, II: 199-200. 

9i Bolton, op. cit., 133. 

»2 Ibid., 139; Ford, op. cit., 222-223. 


many persuasive inducements and employed agents with 
promise of bounty for procuring settlers, but did not suc- 
ceed in getting enough men for the settlement of their 
land. 93 As early as 1720 the Proprietors tried to get Irish 
immigrants and made an agreement with a certain Robert 
Edwards of Castleburg, Ireland, to settle two townships on 
the St. George River. Edwards was to enlist eight to ten 
influential and wealthy associates in Ireland to procure 
settlers and to send fifty families each to the two towns. In 
return he was granted 25,000 acres in each of the two town- 
ships, 15,000 acres for the fifty families, 1,000 acres for 
public uses, and 9,000 acres for the undertakers themselves. 
When one hundred families are settled, the undertakers 
were to receive 10,000 aores in addition. The Proprietors 
also promised to pay £50 for the first settled minister for 
two years and to furnish four "great guns" for the block 
houses for the protection of the settlers. Nothing impor- 
tant seems to have followed these plans and inducements. 94 

93 On June 4, 1720, the proprietors granted 10,000 acres to Thomas 
Westbrook of Portsmouth upon promise that he should settle 
twenty-five families, each building a dwelling house and improving 
the land for three years. The proprietors also promised to furnish 
with two "great guns for a blockhouse in case Westbrook should 
build one." Westbrook 's attempts seem to have been fruitless. 
Lincolnshire Company Miscellaneous Papers, Mss. On Dec. 29, 
1729, the proprietors' committee "to manage and bring forward the 
settlements ' ' reported and the proprietors agreed to grant gratis 
120 aeres to each person up to 120 families who will build a house 
and settle a family, to reserve lots for ministers and schools, to 
pay the first minister £50 a year for two first years, to build a saw 
mill, and to keep a sloop running between Boston and the points. 


»* Ibid. On Dec. 13, 1721, Col. Cornelius Eowan was given 25,- 
000 acres to settle 160 families, while in 1728, on April 18, Capt. 
James Gregg and Alexander Nicholas were granted two townships 
of seven and one-half miles square each on condition that they 
settle 80 families. Ibid. No further records are found. 


Samuel Waldo then comes into the life and activities of 
the Company. He was sent to England as an agent in the 
proceeding against the authority of David Dunbar, the 
Surveyor General of King's Woods, whose aggressions and 
extortions became disastrous to the interest of the propriety. 
Not only did he succeed in his mission, but Waldo also 
obtained the confirmation of the proprietary title to the 
land which they claimed. For this service Waldo was re- 
warded with one-half of the whole patent, while in 1734 
he bought another 100,000 acres, thus becoming the owner 
of more than two-thirds of the total interests of the Lin- 
colnshire Company. 95 

While Waldo was in England, he already began to induce 
Irish settlers upon his land by issuing circulars, and con- 
tinued to do so between 1733 and 1736. In 1735 he suc- 
ceeded in making a contract to settle twenty-seven Scotch- 
Irish families at Broad Bay, each family receiving 100 acres 
of land gratis, but they all went to settle on the St. George 
River, the town later becoming known as Warren. In 1736 
upward of forty-five Scotch-Irish families were settled by 
him in the same district. 96 

Then Waldo turned to the Germans as prospective set- 
tlers. He circulated proclamations in Germany and offered 
most inviting inducements to the emigrants. In 1740 he 
succeeded in inducing forty families from Brunswick and 
Saxony, Germany, and, upon their arrival, located them at 
Broad Bay, thus laying the foundation of Waldoborough, 

9 5 Dunbar was appointed in 1726. Lincolnshire Company Eec- 
ords, Mss., 53-54-55-57-59-68. Williamson, History of Belfast, I: 

as Thompson, Germans in Maine, in The Pennsylvania-German, 
XII: 596-597; Easton, History of Warren, 56; Williamson, History 
of Waldo, 85. 


Me. 97 His campaign was more vigorously launched in 
the early fifties for the same purpose. In 1752 Waldo was 
in Scotland and in 1753 he was again distributing circulars 
in Germany. These circulars styled Samuel Waldo as 
' ' Royal British Captain Waldo, Hereditary Lord of Broad 
Bay," and set forth the plan of settlement in alluring 
terms : each township was to consist of 120 families, each 
family getting 100 acres gratis, without any further obliga- 
tions, if it lives there seven years, to be taken up either 
"in person or by substitute," thereby implying the possi- 
bility of absentee-ownership; more lands were offered at 
reasonable rates and the first purchaser was to get a bounty 
of 200 acres; assurance of protection by the government 
and the freedom of worship were specified, while it was 
emphasized that they "need not bear arms or carry on the 
war"; necessary support and provisions were promised 
for four to six months ; Protestant minister was given free 
passage and £15 for two years, while 200 acres were re- 
served for the maintenance of a church and free boards 
were provided for the first church building. 98 These circu- 
lars were circulated extensively and induced sixty families 
to emigrate immediately from Germany and Scotland and 
by the time Waldo died in 1757 he left the patent "a 
flourishing settlement. ' ' 99 

The Kennebec Purchase Proprietors were no less active 
and they too made the Germans "the tool of their selfish 

97 Maine Historical Society, Collections, VI: 322. Williamson, 
History of Waldo, 85. More German colonists were added by 1749. 
Williamson, History of Belfast, I: 43. 

98 One of the circulars was dated March 23, 1753, in Germany. 
Maine Historical Society, Collections, VI: 322; Thompson, Germans, 
op. Git., 689. 

ss Williamson, History of Belfast, 1 : 44. "He found the patent 
a wilderness; he left it a nourishing settlement. ' ' Mider, History 
of Waldooorough, 51-53. 


speculation." The Kennebec Proprietors were perhaps 
the most powerful of the Great Proprietors and, since their 
organization in 1749, they granted lands liberally, offered 
alluring inducements, employed agents at different places, 
and advertised widely for the purpose of bringing about the 
settlement of the Kennebec territory. Between 1752 and 
1753 they granted no less than seven townships for that 
purpose. 100 

When the Kennebec Proprietors began their activities 
in 1749, Joseph Crellius, at first Samuel Waldo's agent, 
was actively engaged in bringing Germans into New Eng- 
land colonies. After obtaining several township grants for 
the German Protestants from the Massachusetts govern- 
ment, 101 he was in Germany in 1749-50. In the autumn of 
1750, Crellius 's German immigrants, numbering about 
thirty families, arrived at Marblehead. The Pemaquid Pro- 
prietors secretly planned to get them and a certain Peter 
Wild was employed to be on the immigrant ship as Crel- 
lius 's aid, in order to gain the confidence of the passengers 
and persuade them to settle on their territory. This scheme 
was disclosed and Wild disappeared. 102 In the meanwhile 

ioo Kennebec Purchase Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 123, 151- 
152; II: 3-4, 11, 24, etc. Gardiner, History of Kennebec Purchase, 

i°i Crellius proposed to the Massachusetts Government to bring 
in Germans in 1748 and in January, 1749, a committee was ap- 
pointed by the General Court to look into the matter. This action 
resulted in the grant of several townships for the German Protest- 
ants, two in Franklin County and two in Maine. Crellius was to 
receive a reservation of 200 acres in each township if he settled 120 
Protestant families in each township within three years. Mass. 
Acts and Resolves, III: 558; XIV: 352. Thompson, Germans in 
Maine, in The Pennsylvania-German, New Series, I: 106-107. 

In December, 1749, Lieutenant-Governor Spencer Phips in his 
message referred to the scarcity of labor. This Crellius heard at 
Philadelphia and wrote on Dec. 29, 1749, again offering to bring 


the Kennebec Proprietors also were active and persuaded 
the immigrants to settle in the Kennebec country on con- 
dition that the Proprietors would grant them 100 acres to 
each family. The terms were accepted and the German 
immigrants proceeded thither in December. 103 Next year, 
in September, when Crellius arrived at Boston with another 
cargo of about 300 Germans, 104 the Kennebec Proprietors 
voted to grant them a township to be called Frankford, to 
give 100 acres of land gratis to each family, to provide 
free passage from Boston and provisions for the ensuing 
winter and spring on a year's credit, and to construct a 
fort for their protection. The pnly conditions imposed 
upon each settler were the clearing of five acres of land and 
building of a house in three years. These inducements 

in Germans. Massachusetts Archives, Emigrants, Mss., 42, 48; 
Schoff, German Immigration into Colonial New England, in The 
Pennsylvania-German, XII: 397-398. 

102 Thompson, op. cit., in The Pennsylvania-German, New Series, 
I: 107-108. 

103 Ibid., 1 : 107. Kennebec Purchase Proprietors ' Eecords, Mss., 
I: 102-103, 108-109. Schoff, op. cit., 397#\ 

io* In 1750 a company was formed in Boston for the establishing 
of a glass factory near Boston. The partners in the enterprise 
were John Franklin and Norton Quincy of Boston, Peter Etter, 
Joseph Crellius of Philadelphia, and Isaac Winslow of Milton. 
They leased a tract of land of John Quincy on Shed's Neck in 
Braintree and settled it with Germans, calling it Germantown. The 
enterprise failed and the proprietors tried to dispose of the incom- 
ing Germans to other enterprisers at profit. Thus the arrival was 
advertised widely in the Boston papers. The Boston Post Boy, 
Sept. 25, 1752; The Boston Evening Post, Sept. 25, Oct. 2 and 9, 
1752. The interested persons were to treat with John Franklin 
or Isaac Winslow or Captain Hood. The cargo thus disposed of 
was originally intended for the proposed factory. Patee, Old 
Braintree and Quincy, 474-486; Faust, German Elements in the 
United States, I: 260-261. 

Even Benjamin Franklin, John's brother, bought eight build- 
ing lots in the village to help enterprise in 1751. 


were accepted and the Germans started thither. 105 In 1752 
Samuel Goodwin, one of the Proprietors, was employed 
as an agent with the aid of Peter Wild, now his interpreter, 
and succeeded in persuading a certain Captain Wilson to 
bring an accession of forty-six Germans and a few French 
families to Frankfort. 106 Next year, the Proprietors sent 
to the German settlers "one Barrel of Rum" to "treat the 
Indians ... to make them easy. ' ' 107 In October, 1752, 
they again attempted to procure German settlers by grant- 
ing one township each to John Stedman of Rotterdam, 
Germany, Gershom Flagg, one of the Proprietors, and 
Henry Ehrenfeld of Frankfort, Germany, on condition 
that they should send 100 families. The scheme failed, 
however. 108 The following year, 1753, Florentius Vassal, 
another one of the Proprietors, became an agent of the 
Company and went to England and Holland to procure 
settlers. He failed to accomplish his aim. 109 In Septem- 
ber, 1753, the Proprietors again adopted the scheme of a 
year ago and granted three townships to John Stedman, 
Gershom Flagg, and Henry E. Luther of Frankfort, Ger- 

i° 5 Kennebec Purchase Proprietors' Eecords, Mss., I: 102-103; 
Gardiner, History of Kennebec Purchase, 280. 

loe They were amply paid for the work by Dr. Sylvester Gardiner, 
the treasurer of the Company. Thompson, op. cit., I: 111; Goold, 
Fort Hallifox: Its Projectors, Builders, and Garrison, in Maine 
Historical Society, Collections, First Series, VIII (hereafter cited 
as Goold, Fort Hallifox) : 213, foot note. 

i°7 Kennebec Purchase Proprietors ' Records, Mss., II : 26. 

los Ibid., 1 : 151-152. 

109 Ibid., II: 24. Gardiner, History of Kennebec Purchase, 280; 
Thompson, op. cit., I: 26. That same year Vassal proposed to 
the Massachusetts government to transfer to him and his associates, 
the Kennebec Proprietors, the whole territory between the Penob- 
scot and Quoddy on the condition that they settle the territory. 
The General Court assured him the grant if they would obtain 
His Majesty's approbation and introduce 5,000 settlers and the 
proportionate number of ministers. The attempt failed. 


many, on condition of introducing 100 families in three 
years. Luther was active but the whole scheme again fell 
through. 110 

At the conclusion of the French and Indian War, the 
Kennebec Proprietors renewed their attempt vigorously. 
At their meeting on May 18, 1763, they caused elaborate 
advertisements to be extensively circulated, not only in 
America alone, but also in England and Ireland. These 
advertisements praised the Kennebec country, its fertile 
soil and convenient approach and boasted the settlement 
of eleven towns there already; proposed to found three 
townships on each side of the River ; offered 200 acres gratis 
to each family on condition that each should build a house 
and till five acres of land in three years and dwell there 
' ' personally or by substitute ' ' for seven years ; and reserved 
200 acres each for the first minister and the ministry and 
100 acres for a school lot and other public purposes. It 
was specified that if "any Protestant Families in Europe 
should incline to come over and settle, ' ' they may apply to 
Florentius Vassal in London. 111 Similar campaigns were 
continued over several years, but the attempts were only 
partially successful, due partly to many legal controversies 
over the title and partly to the increased attraction of the 
Vermont territory. 112 

no North, History of Augusta, 40-41. 

m See for example a specimen in The Massachusetts Gazette 
and Boston News-Letter, June 9, 1763. Similar advertisements ap- 
peared in The Connecticut Courant and The New York Gazette. 

Similar attempts were made in 1760-1761, when 3,000 acres were 
offered to the promoters. The Boston News-Letter, Feb. 21-28. 
and March 6, 1760 ; The New York Gazette, Feb. 20, 1761. 

112 See below 272jf. 

The French immigration into New England was chiefly confined 
to the latter part of the seventeeth century, after 1680. There was 
very little connection, as far as I was able to find, with the pro- 
prietors of the time except once. The Atherton Company, a sort 



The defense of settlers was a problem of prime impor- 
tance in bringing about the settlements in the eastern fron- 
tiers and soon after their organization as a propriety the 
Kennebec Proprietors took the matter into serious con- 
sideration. During 1750 and 1751 they petitioned the 
Massachusetts General Court for a better defense of the 
eastern frontiers but they failed to get any support. 113 In 
1752, after in vain petitioning the Massachusetts General 
Court during the previous two years, 113 they caused to be 
built at Frankfort, across the river from Fort Richmond, a 
' • defensible house ' ' which afterward became known as Fort 
Shirley. It consisted of two block houses and a long shed. 
Nine years later it was renovated and used as a court house 
and tavern. 114 

A greater project was undertaken in 1754. On April 
3, 1754, the Proprietors met in Boston and agreed to build 
or cause to be built a fort at Cushnock, if the Massachu- 
setts General Court will build one at Teconett on the Ken- 
nebec River and protect them while they are at work. A 
committee was appointed to carry out the plan at the ex- 
pense of the Company. Already on March 28th, Gov. 
Shirley advised the General Court to provide a necessary 
means of defense against the French and Indians, and the 

of land company which was born out of the Massachusetts-Bhode 
Island boundary controversy, made bargain with the French refugees 
and attempted to settle them in the Narragansett country, Ehode 
Island, in 1686. This territory they claimed under a Massachusetts 
grant. The refugees were finally located at Kingston, but trouble 
followed and they were scattered several years later. The French 
settlement at New Oxford, Mass., after 1680, had no reference to 
the proprietors. Baird, Huguenot in America, II: 294jf.; Daniels, 
Huguenot in NipmucTc Country or Oxford prior to 1713. 

us See for activities, Goold, Fort Hallifox, 215. 

ii* Dow, Fort Western on the Kennebec, 9. 


latter, on April 10th, voted for the establishment of forts. 
The Proprietors immediately negotiated with the Governor, 
who decided to accept the plan which the Proprietors pre- 
sented. In a communication addressed to the Kennebec Pro- 
prietors on April 16th, Gov. Shirley officially announced 
that the Government would build a fort at Teconnet and 
would provide soldiers to guard the work at Cushnock. The 
next day the Proprietors met again, re-endorsed their origi- 
nal plan in view of the assurance given in the Governor's 
letter, and appointed a new committee to execute the 
plan. 115 The Proprietors at once began their project by 
appointing Gershom Flagg, one of their members, to super- 
vise the preparations and the building of the fort/ Flagg 
gathered the necessary artisans and assistants and set sail 
on May 15th, with plenty of supplies and stores. The 
actual building of the fort was begun early in July under 
the official protection and the fort, since known as Fort 
Western, was roughly completed at a great expense to the 
Company by the close of that year, 1754. 116 The works 
thus completed consisted of two block houses of twenty- 
four feet square at the opposite angles, two sentry boxes 
of twelve feet square each at other two angles, and a house 
of hewn timber of one hundred feet by thirty-three feet. 
The whole structure was picketed in at a thirty-feet dis- 
tance. The fort at Teconnet was built according to the 

us The full text of these actions and activities are given in 
Dow, Fort Western on the Kennebec, 11 f. The plan was made in 
detail even to the location and dimensions of sheds and block 
houses. The full text of the first proprietors' votes, together with 
plans, are on pages 11-12. These records were checked up with 
the Proprietors' Eecords and found to be true. 

lie Flagg 's contract, together with the list of artisans, supplies, 
and stores, are given in Dow, Fort Western on the Kennebec, 26-29. 
The detail of the building and the expenses incurred by the Com- 
pany are given on 27-38. These I have also checked up with the 
Proprietors' Eecords. 


promise about the same time by the Government and came 
to be known as Fort Hallif ox. This was a vitally necessary 
fort, together with Fort Western, for the defense of the 
Kennebec settlements, and the Proprietors expressed their 
gratitude by offering Gov. Shirley in December, 1754, even 
before the actual completion of the works, eight shares 
in the Company's lands. 117 

The other Great Proprietors were also anxious to secure 
the defense of their respective territories and were no less 
active in that respect. In 1716 the Pejepscot Proprietors 
built two forts, Fort Brunswick and Fort George, at their 
own expense. 118 Moreover they encouraged the people to 
enlist for the defense of the frontiers in 1715 and upon 
dividing land each Proprietor was required to contribute 
toward the means of defense according to his shares. 119 The 
Pemaquid Proprietors also built a small fort at Pemaquid 
and fitted it with eight ' ' canons. ' ' 120 The Lincolnshire 
Company and the Twenty Associates too caused a block 
house to be built on St. George River at their expense for 
the defense of their setlements. They assessed, in 1722, 
£40 a share for the completion of the work and its upkeep. 121 

H7 Dow, Fort Western on the Kennebec, 20-21. That the Pro- 
prietors must have used the Governor for their tool is shown there. 

us Pejepscot Proprietors' Eecords, Mss., I: 50-51, 51-54. An 
account of the cost is also given there. This was one of the very 
first things which the Pejepscot Proprietors have done upon organ- 

™ Ibid., I: 51, 67-69; Maine Historical Society, Collections, 
XXIV: 251^. 

120 i n 1763-4-5. Pemaquid Proprietors ' Eecords, Mss., 1 : 44, 
54, 58. 

121 Lincolnshire Company Miscellaneous Papers, Mss., 1720; 
April 6, 1722; July 20, 1722; etc. 

122 Pejepscot Proprietors' Eecords, Mss., July 9, 1750. 

12*3 Kennebec Purchase Proprietors ' Eecords, Mss., 1 : 54, 58. 
la* Pejepscot Proprietors' Eecords, Mss., for March 19 and April 
15, 1751. See also for May 15, 1751. 



The eastern frontier of the Province of Massachusetts 
Bay, now the State of Maine, "was a net work of confusing 
grants in the eighteenth century. Grants, indefinite in 
their limits, were made to individuals or companies and 
were revoked or reissued with varying boundaries. Interest 
or favor could obtain them and, from carelessness or ignor- 
ance of geography, the same territory was covered by more 
than one grant. To complicate the situation many tracts 
were held under Indian deeds. The revival of the Great 
Proprietors meant the revival of all these conflicting claims 
and numerous legal controversies were waged during the 
second half of the eighteenth century. Of these the more 
notable controversies were those in which the Kennebec 
Purchase Proprietors were involved. 

When the Kennebec Purchase Proprietors revived their 
claims to a large tract of land in 1749, the Pejepscot Pro- 
prietors were already actively in possession of an extensive 
portion of it. At once a controversy was started between 
these two Proprietaries which lasted for nearly ten years. 
As soon as the sphere of the Kennebec Purchase Proprie- 
tors' activities was known, the Pejepscot Proprietors were 
the first to defy their right, as conflicting with their own. 
On July 9, 1750 they voted to post an advertisement at 
Brunswick, and agreed that it w r as the intention of the 
Pejepscot Proprietors to defend the inhabitants of Bruns- 
wick and of the neighboring towns in the possession of 
their land and that any person taking up land under any 
other title would be prosecuted. 122 The Kennebec Purchase 
Proprietors, on the 19th of the following December, pro- 
ceeded to claim their own b}^ appointing Mathew Livermore 
and William Parker of Portsmouth as their counsel and 

i 23 Kennebec Purchase Proprietors ' Records, Mss., 1 : 63#\, 150- 


voting to defend their grants and title at the Company's 
expense. They also appointed a committee to answer the 
advertisement of the Pejepscot Proprietors printed "with 
design to prejudice the Proprietors." 123 The Pejepscot 
Proprietors in the meanwhile did their best to convince the 
people of Brunswick of their just right and on March 19, 
1751, promised them that if any of the inhabitants of 
Brunswick or Topsham should be molested or disturbed by 
the Kennebec Purchase Proprietors the Proprietors would 
stand by them and indemnify them against the Kennebec 
Purchase Proprietors' claims. Notwithstanding these at- 
tempts, a few had bought title from the Kennebec Purchase 
Proprietors, and the Pejepscot Proprietors on the 15th of 
April voted against any encroachment on their territory 
and agreed to advertise several deeds to show the exact 
bounds. In the following May in an advertisement they 
specificly forbade the people to settle under the Kennebec 
Purchase Proprietors. 124 The Kennebec Purchase Proprie- 
tors also proceeded vigorously to claim their right in the 
same territory and appointed committees from time to time 
during 1751-2 to prosecute the trespassers. 125 They also 
caused their patent to be published in order to show their 
just claim to the territory in conflict. 126 

Thus started the two Proprietaries entered into a bitter 
pamphlet war, most prolific in the year 1753. The Pejep- 
scot Proprietors first led the way by publishing ' ' The Plan 
and Extracts of Deeds . . ." in which they claimed the 
territory where Brunswick and Topsham and the neighbor- 
ing towns lay. The Kennebec Purchase Proprietor by 
their vote of Jan. 4, 1753, published "Remarks on the Plan 

126 " A Patent for Plymouth in New England To which is an- 
nexed Extracts from the Records of that Colony," Boston, 1751, 
printed by vote of the Company on August 14, 1751. See the last 
page of that pamphlet. 


and Extracts of Deeds lately published by the Proprietors 
of the Township of Brunswick . . . " 127 In it they pointed 
out the "Inconsistency and Ridiculousness of their Plan 
and Extract" and concluded that "they neither defend 
the Pejepscot Claim, nor even shew where it is, but are 
wholly taken up in the Defense and Illustration of a claim 
opposite thereto ! " It also maintained that the purpose of 
the Pejepscot Proprietors "is to blind the Eyes of People, 
and to delude the ignorant; and so to render ineffectual, 
as much as in them lies, the -Endeavors of the Plymouth 
Company to settle the Eastern Lands." The Pejepscot 
Proprietors followed with "An Answer to the Remarks of 
the Plymouth Company ..." in February and main- 
tained their original stand in stronger words. 128 The Ken- 
nebec Purchase Proprietors then published a long pamphlet, 
fifty pages in length, entitled "A Defense of the Remarks 
of the Plymouth Company on the Plan and Extracts of 
Deeds ..." and reaffirmed their position in minute 
detail. 129 The controversy continued with unabated vigor 
on both sides for four years ; both encouraging the people 
to buy land of them and to settle in their interest. 

In 1757 the controversy began to see the dawn of settle- 
ment. The Pejepscot Proprietors made a proposal for 

127" Remarks on the Plan and Extracts of Deeds lately published 
by the Proprietors of the Township of Brunswick agreeable to their 
vote of January 4th, 1753." 12pp. Boston, Jan. 26, 1753. See 
also Ford, Massachusetts Broadsides, No. 964, for their votes of 
Jan. 12, 1753. 

128 "An Answer to the Remarks of the Plymouth Company or 
(as they call themselves) the Proprietors, of the Kennebec Pur- 
chase from the late Colony of New-Plymounth, published by virtue 
of their vote of 31st of January last. . . ." Boston, 1753. 

129 The subtitle read: "Being a Reply to their answer to said 
Remarks lately published, according to the Vote of March 28, 1753." 
Boston, 1753. It was published, however, late in that year. 


settlement on March 12, 130 and the Kennebec Purchase 
Proprietors made a counter proposal on March 30, 1757. 131 
On June 1, the former voted to accept the latter 's proposal 
and appointed a committee to conclude an agreement. 132 
The subject of the agreement was debated by the committees 
of the both Proprietors on June 8 and the substance was 
agreed upon, and the deeds of release were executed and 
exchanged, in accordance with the said agreement, on Feb. 
20, 1758. 133 By this the Pejepscot Proprietors compro- 
mised in favor of the Kennebec Purchase Proprietors and 
the latter obtained a township of Bowdoinham and other 
smaller tracts. Upon running the boundary the southern 
line of this township encroached upon the northern bound- 
ary line of Topsham and negotiation was begun anew. The 
final agreement was reached nearly ten years later, on May 
29, 1766. The compromise was based upon the clause in 
the confirmation of the Pejepscot Proprietors' land by the 
Massachusetts General Court in 1726, namely, "saving all 
other interest that may be found therein." The Pejepscot 
Proprietors released to the Kennebec Purchase Proprietors 
the lines between New Meadows and Kennebec Rivers, com- 
prising the present towns of Phipsburg and Bath and deter- 
mined the line between the two Companies to run from the 

iso Pejepscot Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 194-196. Also Rec- 
ords and Papers, Maine Historical Society, Collections, XXIV: 412- 

isi Kennebec Purchase Proprietors' Records, Mss., II: 104, 105- 
107, 110-116. See also Pejepscot Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 
196-198; Papers and Records, Maine Historical Society, Collections, 
XXIV: 415-417. 

132 Pejepscot Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 293; Papers and 
Records, Maine Historical Society, Collections, XXIV: 411-412. 

133 Kennebec Purchase Proprietors' Records, Mss., II: 117-121. 
Pejepscot Proprietors' Records, Mss., I: 198-200; Papers and Rec- 
ords, Maine Historical Society, Collections, XXIV: 417-420, 424- 
427, 427-430. 


mouth of the Catherine River northwestward as the south 
line, and the west line about fifteen miles from the Kennebec 
River. In other words, the southern line of the town of 
Bowdoinham was made the line between the two Companies. 
In compensation therefor, the Kennebec Purchase Proprie- 
tors ceded to the Pejepscot Proprietors some 400 acres of 
land "on Cobbasecontee Pond, in Pond Town, so called." 
The settlement was then confirmed by both Proprietors. 134 
The other great controversies of the Kennebec Purchase 
Proprietors may be related briefly. The first was the contro- 
versy with the Clarke and Lake claim. This claim was 
based upon Indian deeds for a certain tract of land within 
the territory of the Kennebec Purchase Proprietors and, 
after sundry lawsuits and references, it was decided in 
1758 that only the east side of the Kennebec River, the 
north line of the present town of Woolwich, should be the 
southern boundary of the Plymouth Patent and the north 
line of the Clarke and Lake claims. 135 The claims of the 
Wiscasset Company, also under Indian deeds, were finally 
settled, after numerous litigations, by a compromise in 1762, 
the boundary line between them being fixed at half way 
between the Sheepscot and Kennebec Rivers from the 
Monsweag Bay to the upper narrows of the Sheepscot 
River. 136 Another great controversy was with the Proprie- 

134 Kennebec Purchase Proprietors ' Eecords, Mss., II : 403#\ 
Pejepscot Proprietors' Eecords, in Maine Historical Society, Collec- 
tions, XXIV: 461-464. The final deed was confirmed on June 17, 
1766, by the both party. The Pejepscot Proprietors voted to give 
equivalent for whatever the people had lost on account of the above 
settlement in 1765. Papers and Becords, Maine Historical Society, 
Collections, XXIV: 457-459. Gardiner, History of Kennebec Pur- 
chase, 277. 

135 See Gardiner, History of Kennebec Purchase, 276. Kennebec 
Purchase Proprietors' Records, Mss., II: 148, gives the action of 
the Proprietors. 

136 Kennebec Purchase Proprietors' Records, Mss., II: 300-305. 
Gardiner, History of Kennebec Purchase, 276. 


tors of Pemaquid patent, which was settled in 1763. The 
Pemaquid Proprietors, in substance, acknowledged the right 
of their opponents to all that part of the Pemaquid terri- 
tory lying west of the Pemaquid River and ponds. The 
Kennebec Purchase Proprietors immediately reconveyed 
to the Pemaquid Proprietors in return all that part of the 
present town of Bristol, lying west of the Pemaquid River, 
and south of a line described in detail. The Kennebec 
Purchase Proprietors also conveyed 2000 acres immediately 
north of the line described, to be laid out in a single tract 
between the two rivers and having its northern boundary 
parallel to said line. 137 

The Plymouth patent thus established after these contro- 
versies extended from Merrymeeting Bay to Norridgwock, 
about thirty miles in width and with the Kennebec River 
in the center. It also included Bath and Phipsburg below 
this line on the west side of the Kennebec River. 

Besides these great controversies, the Kennebec Purchase 
Proprietors, like any other Great Proprietors of the period, 
were continuously involved in smaller litigations. These 
were all cases of ejectment or trespass and almost always 
ended in their victory. 138 One case was even appealed to 
the Crown, but it was decided in their favor. 139 

The Pemaquid Proprietors were another group of the 
Great Proprietors who had innumerable troubles as to their 
territorial claims and were beset with innumerable litiga- 

137 Kennebec Purchase Proprietors' Eecords, Mss., II: 317-321. 
Pemaquid Proprietors' Eecords, Mss., I: 33, 35-36, 42, 63, etc. 

138 F or example, the case of ejection against Capt. James Car- 
gill; action of trespass against Nathaniel Donnell; action of ejec- 
tion against John Lamont; etc. Documentary History of Maine, 
VIII (Baxter Manuscripts) : 347-352, 352-357-359. See also, A 
Famous Law Suit, 1765-1766, in Maine Historical Magazine, IX: 
183-188, being the Gooch claim and the Shepherd case. 

139 See Goold, Fort Hallifox, 219, foot note. John Adams was 
one of the lawyers employed. 


tions. When they came to their own they began to settle 
the territory which they claimed by issuing full warrantee 
deeds to those purchasing lands of them ; in many instances, 
where actions of ejectment were brought against such pur- 
chasers, they instructed their agent to appear before the 
courts in defense of the settlers under their title. Through- 
out their records one can read scattered references to such 
actions and, from time to time, they appointed committees 
"To Prosecute in the Law To Final issue, any person, or 
persons, That shall Trespass upon or make any Encroach- 
ments on the Said Proprietors general Right as yet Undi- 
vided, and Take the Proper Steps in the Law. ' ' 140 Also 
the clerk of the Company is always empowered to bring 
suits against intruders and engage attorneys to carry them 
on. 141 It was in connection with these numerous law suits 
that such persons as William Cushing and John Adams 
were popularly engaged by the Pemaquid Proprietors as 
their counsel and attorneys. 

The more outstanding cases which the Pemaquid Pro- 
prietors were called upon to defend are characteristic of 
the eastern claims cases. They may be taken as typical of 
similar cases which the other Great Proprietaries had to 
face. Of these we may note here the Drowne claim, the 
Toppan claim, the Vaughan claim, and the Brown claim, all 
being non-resident claims within the territory claimed by 
the Pemaquid Proprietors. 142 

140 Pemaquid Proprietors' Eecords, Mss., 23. Jan. 21, 1762. 
Seven days later, the same committee was instructed "to bring any- 
writ of Trespass or Ejectment' ' at the Proprietors' expense. IMd., 
24. See also, ibid., 41, 36, 12, etc. 

ui Ibid., 63-64, 70, 81, etc. The Proprietors' records after 1765 
are full of these references. 

142 The controversy between the Pemaquid Proprietors and the 
Plymouth Company has been noted already in connection with the 
latter Company. See above 271. 


Briefly stated these claims were as follows. The Drowne 
claim dates back to the patent of Robert Alsworth and Giles 
Elbridge, upon which the Pemaquid Proprietors based their 
claim also. Giles survived Alsworth and became sole pro- 
prietor, who upon death gave the entire title to Thomas 
Elbridge, the second son. In 1657 Thomas sold to Nicholas 
Davison the whole patent in two halves. After remaining 
dormant for over three score years, Shem Drowne, later a 
clerk of the Pemaquid Proprietors, claimed it in 1735 
through his wife who was the descendant of Nicholas Davi- 
son and who for the first time took possession of the land. 143 
The Toppan claim was based upon three Indian deeds, 
respectively dated 1661, 1662, and 1674. However nothing 
was done about the claim until 1702, when Christopher 
Toppan, a Newbury minister, bought them all for £110. 
Except in a few instances Toppan again left the land 
without improvement until the middle of the century when 
the claim was revived. 144 The Vaughan claim had its origin 
at a latter date. Between 1732 and 1740 William Vaughan 
bought a tremendous extent of land in a series of some 
dozen deeds. The territory included substantially all the 
land in the present towns of Bristol, Bremen, Damariscotta, 
Nobleborough, most of Newcastle, and parts of Jefferson 
and Waldoboro. William died in 1755 and left the territory 
by will to his children, who were represented by Eliot G. 
Vaughan in the controversial claim. 145 The Brown claim 
dates back to 1625 when John Brown bought of the Indians 
an extensive territory very similar to that of the Vaughan 
claim. The territory descended in dormant form from son 

1*3 Report of the Commissioners of 1811, 9-11. 

mlbid., 12-15. The deeds are to be found, Ibid., 82-83, 84-85, 
85-86. Between 1720 and 1733, Toppan tried to settle the terri- 
tory by sending a few settlers under alluring inducements. But 
not much was accomplished. Ibid., 86-103. 

145 Hid., 104#\ Johnston, History of Bristol, 475-477. 


to son, until 1720 when John Brown, John Brown, 2nd, 
and John Brown, 3rd, revived it. The latter relinquished 
his share to the heirs of Richard Pierce in 1734, while part 
of it was sold by the purchaser again to William Vaughan 
in 1734, thus complicating the Brown claim with the 
Vaughan claim. The heirs of Pierce, by several deeds, sold 
the remainder to several gentlemen of Wethersfield, Con- 
necticut. The other two Brown brothers also in the course 
of time sold their shares in several deeds to others. Among 
the claimants of land under the latter procedure were 
Samuel Waldo of The Lincolnshire Company, Job Lewis of 
Boston, and William Noble. All these transactions branched 
off into smaller shares and the result was the most com- 
plicated situation that can be imagined. 146 The territory 
included in these claims was substantially the same. Be- 
sides the Vaughan claim as noted above, the Brown claim 
included most of the township of Bristol, and all the town- 
ships of Nobleborough and Jefferson; the Drowne claim 
covered all the township of Bristol, and a part of the 
township of Newcastle and Nobleborough ; while the Toppan 
claim duplicated the greater portion of the Brown claim. 147 
The contest between the Pemaquid Proprietors and these 
several claims began about the middle of the century and 
continued until the early part of the next century in vary- 
ing warmth. It not only called forth the attention of the 
Pemaquid Proprietary, but it often ended in numerous legal 
suits of ejection and trespass. Even among the claimants 
themselves there were instituted several suits, thus fighting 
themselves before bringing the contest against the Pema- 

148 Report of the Commissioners of 1811, 16, 106-108, 109^. 
Johnston, History of Bristol, 470-474, gives a detailed description 
of different purchases and their respective titles, very complicated 

1*7 Report of the Commissioners of 1811, 23. 


quid Proprietors. 148 Into the detailed presentation of these 
controversies, however, we need not enter here. It is suffi- 
cient to note that the final settlement did not come until 
aftr the submission of titles in 1811. The Commissioners 
appointed by the Massachusetts government decided the 
case in 1813, by which the Plymouth claims were endorsed 
as settled and the Drowne claim was awarded half a town- 
ship. The Brown, the Vaughan, and the Toppan claims, 
founded upon Indian purchases, were all extinguished as 
never having had any foundation either in law or equity, 
the origin in unauthorized Indian deeds being declared 
invalid. 149 

There were also numerous independent suits of ejectment. 
Of these the most notable was that of Thomas Bodkin, of 
Boston, against four yoemen of Bristol, namely, James 
Bayley, John Randall, James Yeats and Simon Eliot. 
These were suits in ejectment brought to try the title to 
lands held originally under the Pemaquid patent. The 
case was first decided in favor of the demandant in the 
inferior court of common pleas in 1768 and then, in 1768-9, 
appealed to the superior court, where the appellants, the 
original defendants prevailed and the Pemaquid title was 
established. 150 

We may note here the Harvard College claim against the 
Pejepscot Proprietors, showing another angle in the contro- 
versies of the period. The President and Fellows of Har- 

1 48 See for example the ease of Toppan vs. Vaughan, 1741-1742, 
which was finally appealed to the Superior Court at York and de- 
cided in favor of Toppan. Ibid., 104-106. See also Cushman, 
Sheepscott and Newcastle, 114-117. 

"a Report of the Commissioners of 1811. See also Johnston, 
History of Bristoal, 488-496. 

iso Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Publications, VI: 13, notes. 
All the necessary citations from the original papers in the Suffolk 
Court Files are given there. Pemaquid Proprietors ' Eecords, Mss., 
12, 16, etc. 


vard College, in 1730, sent a memorial to the General Court, 
reviving a grant of 1000 acres of land in Casco Bay district 
which was made in 1682. The Proprietors immediately- 
answered by disclaiming the validity of the Harvard claim. 
Two years later the President and Fellows of Harvard 
College brought a suit of ejectment against Johnson Har- 
mon and Proprietors. The case was decided in 1733 in 
favor of the defendants and the College appealed. After 
several trials and reviews, it was finally decided in 1738 in 
favor of the Pejepscot Proprietors, on the ground of prior 
claims of twenty-three years. 151 

All told, the controversies on the eastern claims brought 
out the real nature of the claims upon which the Great 
Proprietors founded their titles ; it disclosed the most con- 
fusing net work of title in the Maine coast; and it also 
pointed out the invalidity of Indian purchases which were 
made without due process. 


No less significant than the revival by the Great Pro- 
prietors of their Eastern claims was the revival of the 
charter claims over the Western territory. By the middle 
of the century all the desirable lands in many of the old 
colonies had been either granted or engrossed and the new 
comers were forced to turn westward, beyond the moun- 
tains. The bold speculators of the period indeed were quick 
to seize the situation and began to look to those fertile 
lands of the West. Before the critical year 1763 the specu- 
lative mania for the western lands had manifested itself 
in the form of land companies and colonizing schemes with 
a view to exploiting the trans-montane lands. In 1747 the 
first Ohio company was organized and two years later 

151 Pejepscot Proprietors ' Records, Mss., V: 225, 237-238, 239- 
240, 253, 257, 269-271, 275-277, 279-282, 28Tff„ 291#., 295-296. 


obtained a grant of 500,000 acres toward the west of Vir- 
ginia; in 1749 the Loyal Company was also organized and 
became the owner of 800,000 acres along the northern 
boundary line of North Carolina; the plans for the west- 
ward movement formulated by the Philadelphians culmi- 
nated in the Franklin's scheme of colonization in the Ohio 
Valley in 1754-56 ; about the same period, Thomas Pownall 
suggested two border colonies, "one at the back of Vir- 
ginia" and the other "in the Cohass on Connecticut river" ; 
in 1755, Samuel Hazard of Philadelphia proposed that he 
should become hy a grant from the Crown a lord proprietor 
of a large colony in the Ohio Valley, extending beyond the 
Mississippi, and even obtained a grant from the Connecticut 
colony for a release of her claims. 

Into the midst of these discussions the New Englanders 
had thrown another fire brand which spread toward the 
neighboring colonies and which was not extinguished till 
after the Revolution. This was the revival of the Con- 
necticut claim over the western territory and the scheme 
advanced by the Connecticut men for colonizing the Wyo- 
ming Valley in Pennsylvania. Indeed, the speculation in 
Connecticut reached its height in the revival of her claims 
to the western territory, based upon her "sea to sea" 
charter. "The movement grew out of the unsatisfied land 
hunger of the population of Connecticut," wrote Gipson, 
"and is a striking episode in the truely romantic history 
of the exploitation of the North American continent. ' ' 152 

The Connecticut Susquehanna Company was organized 
in 1753 for the purpose of settling the Wyoming Valley in 
Pennsylvania. It was started in and about Windham and 
the number of proprietors grew steadily to 840, subse- 
quently increasing to 1,200 and spreading practically all 

i 5 2 Gipson, Jared Ingersoll, 317. 


over the colony. 153 Advantage was taken of the Albany 
Congress of the colonies and there on July 11, 1754, the 
representatives of the Company purchased of the Iroquois 
chiefs a tract of land on the east bank of the Susquehanna 
River for the sum of £2,000 New York currency. In doing 
so the adventurers ignored the fact that the Delaware 
Indians were in possession of the tract. The Delaware 
Company was another enterprise of a similar nature, which 
bought of the Indians the title to lands from the Delaware 
River westward to the east line of the Susquehanna Com- 
pany. This organization, although it received the sanction 
of the Connecticut government, was more or less a minor 
appendage to the Susquehanna Company. The narrative 
story of these two companies from that time on is the story 
of Indian raids and massacres, of Pennamites and Yankee 
wars, of the controversy over the territory by Pennsylvania 
and Connecticut both in America and in England, and of 
the pioneer adventures of the sturdy Connecticut men 
boldly settling in the Wyoming Valley under the disputed 
title. The controversy continued for nearly a quarter of 
a century until 1782 when it was settled by the Trenton 
Decree in favor of Pennsylvania. 154 

The method of granting land adopted by these companies 
was typically that of the New England colonies. The first 
definite regulation of the territory was made by the Susque- 

153 A company organized for a similar purpose at Colchester 
was incorporated into the Susquehanna Company. Pennsylvania 
Archives, Second Series, XVIII: 12. 

154 p or a detailed narrative history of these two companies : 
Mathews, Expansion of New England, ll&ff.; Pearse, Annals of 
Luzerne County, Chapter II; Gipson, Jared Ingersoll, 317^.; Stone, 
The Poetry and History of Wyoming, Chapter TVff.; etc. All the 
materials including the minutes of the Susquehanna Company's 
meetings, are conveniently collected in Pennsylvania Archives, Second 
Series, XVIII. 


hanna Company in 1762 at Hartford. It ordered one hun- 
dred proprietors "by themselves personally and not by 
substitutes" to occupy ten miles square of land on the 
Susquehanna within four months and keep occupying and 
improving for a period of five years, when the whole terri- 
tory was to be given to those one hundred proprietors as a 
gratuity. 155 One year later, it ordered to grant eight town- 
ships of five miles square each, reserving however all mines 
and coal beds to the proprietors. Each township was to be 
granted to forty proprietors, to be divided into forty-three 
equal shares, reserving three shares for the public use; 
twenty-one settlers were to be introduced in a township 
before another township was to be granted. 156 Five years 
later, in 1768, two hundred more settlers were ordered to 
be encouraged to settle and £200 was voted "in providing 
proper materials, sustenance & provision for each forty 
settlers." It also appointed a committee to manage the 
affairs, agreed to provide a minister, and declared their 
determination to defend their title at their expense in 
behalf of the settlers. 157 That year five townships were 
actually formed, namely, Wilkesbarre, Hanover, Kingston, 
Plymouth, and Pittstown, and later three other townships 
followed so that by 1773 there were more than 2,000 Con- 
necticut settlers on the Susquehanna and the Connecticut 
Assembly organized the settlements into a Connecticut 
township by the name of Westmoreland, to be included in 
Litchfield County. 158 

155 Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series, XVIII: 41-42. 
iwibid., XVIII: 47-48. The meeting of the proprietors at 
Windham, April 17, 1763. 

157 Hartford, Dec. 28, 1768. Ibid., XVIII: 58-62. See also, 

158 Conn. Col. Bee, XIV: 217, 218, 465#\ The Susquehanna Com- 
pany's settlements were divided into seven districts, while that of 
the Delaware Company into one, and all the necessary local govern- 
mental machineries were provided for. 


The Delaware Company, although its existence was over- 
shadowed by the Susquehanna Company and although it 
acted together with the latter in many things, was also 
active in bringing about settlements on the Delaware River. 
In October, 1760, the proprietors announced that they had 
erected three townships, each extending six miles along the 
Delaware and eight miles inland. They had also laid out 
a large town of eighty lots in the middle townships and 
had built thirty cabins, three loghouses, a grist mill, and 
a saw mill. The lands were parcelled out in 200-aeres lots, 
twelve of which were to be cleared and improved and a 
house built on each within three years, on pain of forfeiture. 
In 1760 it was reported that there were already twenty 
men there and one hundred proprietors were expected in 
the spring. 159 

These two Companies are important in showing the last 
stage in the colonial land speculation; they were the first 
connecting link between the New England speculative pro- 
prietors and the post-Revolutionary speculation over the 
western lands. From the beginning the Susquehanna 
Company was put on a speculative basis and its shares were 
placed on the market at fluctuating prices. In 1753, when 
it was organized, its stock was valued at two dollars per 
share, 160 but each share sold variously from five and seven 
to nine dollars. 161 In January, 1754, the official price was 
set at four dollars per share, while in November of the same 
year it was raised to nine dollars, and each time the quota 

159 * * The report of the Sheriff and Justices of Northampton 
County," Oct. 15, 1760, in Pennsylvania Colonial Record's, VIII: 
565. Mathews, op. cit., 118-119. 

160 Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series, XVIII: 3. 

isi Stiles, Extracts from the Itineraries and Other Miscellanies 
of Exra Stiles, 1755-1794, I: 72. 


of proprietors to be admitted was increased. 162 The official 
rate for the share rose to £8 in 1761 and to £15 in 1762. 163 
Committees were appointed from time to time to sell these 
newly ordered shares in different counties and they handled 
a profitable business. 164 In the Delaware Company terri- 
tory, a share was sold for £40 in 1760, and every 200 acres 
were sold from eight to ten dollars. 165 

162 Minutes of the Susquehanna Company 's meetings, Jan. 9, 
1754, in Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series, XVIII: 13. That 
of Nov. 27, 1754, in ibid., XVIII: 23. In the former case, 350 pro- 
prietors were solicited, in the latter 800. 

163 April 9, 1754 (ibid., XVIII: 37), when 200 more proprietors 
were ordered to be added. Nov. 16, 1762 (ibid., XVIII: 45), when 
50 more were voted to be added. 

16* For the list of shares sold, see ibid., XVIII: 24, 25-32, 34-35, 
38-39, 44, 46-47, 49-51, etc. 
165 Pennsylvania Colonial Records, VIII : 565. 



The story of the town proprietors in the New England 
colonies, of their development, organization, activities, and 
controversies, speaks for itself in pointing out the impor- 
tance of the institution. Let us now note their significances 
in a way of general summary. 

That "there was no land system" in the New England 
colonies ' * apart from the towns ' ' was the conclusion which 
Osgood reached after his extensive study of the American 
colonies in the seventeenth century; and this conclusion 
has been accepted at large. The story of the New England 
town proprietors shows, however, that this conclusion is 
only partially true and this purely from the political or ad- 
ministrative point of view. Institutionally and territorially 
speaking, there was no land system in the New England 
colonies apart from the body of proprietors; there was no 
township apart from the proprietors. In short, the town 
was political and the body of proprietors territorial in their 
respective origin. 

The supreme importance of the institution of town pro- 
prietors in the New England colonies, indeed, arises from 
the very fact that the proprietors constituted a land com- 
munity, independent of the political community, in any 
township. As grantees of a township, they preceded the 
birth of a town ; they were the creators of towns in the evo- 
lutionary sense. We have seen how, in the early period, the 
proprietors and the town were approximately the same and 



how the proprietors ' meeting at the same time served as the 
town meeting. But even then there was already some 
differentiation between the territorial and the political jur- 
isdiction of the town and the proprietors alone claimed the 
former function. In some towns, as at Salem and Cam- 
bridge, there was a distinct separation of these powers 
from an early date. The definite separation of the two 
bodies with their respective functions, in general, began 
to appear toward the close of the seventeenth century and 
was complete in the following century. 

The significance of the New England proprietors arises 
from this separation of powers within townships. From 
the beginning it was the proprietors, not the town, who had 
the complete jurisdiction over the town lands. As such, 
it was the proprietors, not the town, who occupied the im- 
portant place in the New England land system and who 
constituted the last stage in the distribution of land to 
individuals. Between the general court and the individ- 
uals, the proprietors were the sole instrument in the transi- 
tion of land titles from collective to individual ownership, 
involving the dissolution of themselves as a land community 
or transformation into a political community. It is true 
that the "town" controlled the division of land and the 
care of common fields in the early seventeenth century; but 
we have also seen that "town" was the "propriety" and a 
town meeting was nothing but a proprietors' meeting in 
its original conception. To be more specific, the proprie- 
tors controlled the distribution of land indirectly in the 
seventeenth century through the towns and directly in the 
eighteenth century through their independent corporate 

As such the proprietors were responsible, as we have seen, 
for the general plan of the town, its streets and highways, 
its home lots and farms, its commons and common fields, its 
pastures and woodlands ; for the establishment of town gov- 


ernment, religious institutions, schools, mills of different 
descriptions, and other necessities of early agrarian com- 
munity; for the supervision of settlements, the encourage- 
ment of settlers, the distribution of land to new comers, 
and the reservation of land for the future use. In other 
words, they were the builders of towns and constituted the 
nucleus of the body of freemen. This task they accom- 
plished in the seventeenth century as actual settlers and 
toilers, in the eighteenth century as capitalists and specu- 
lators. In either case, the land gradually passed through 
the body of proprietors to individuals, in proportion to 
the proprietary shares or in accordance with the need of 
the new comers. The result was the scattered holdings on 
the part of the proprietors and the small tract holdings 
on the part of the non-proprietors. The proprietors as an 
organized body naturally passed away with the final divi- 
sion of the common and undivided land. 

Closely connected with the importance of the proprietors 
as a last link in the distribution of land is the significance 
attached to the proprietary activities in the conquest of 
the New England frontiers. It was the proprietors who 
established the first official frontiers ; it was the proprietors 
also who were chiefly instrumental in pushing that line 
northward and westward. This they did at first as settlers 
and later as capitalists and speculators. In this respect the 
activities of the speculative proprietors of the eighteenth 
century were particularly noteworthy. Though primarily 
interested in the speculative game of land transaction, they 
lined themselves with the frontier grants of the several 
colonial governments and gave their aid in pushing the 
wheel of civilization vigorously into the wilderness. Be- 
hind it all is the proprietary background as grantees of 
land upon certain conditions. Herein is the real signifi- 
cance of the speculative proprietors of the eighteenth cen- 
tury, for absenteeism is a typical condition of frontier 


towns. Herein also lies the significance of the transition 
of the religio-social land policy to the commercial and 
speculative land policy of the eighteenth century. 


Much has been written about the origin of New England 
towns. The theory of Germanic origin traces the New 
England towns directly back to the Mark in the primeval 
forest of Germany; the primordial germ theory finds the 
New England towns already organized in England before 
the migration to New England; the parish theory defines 
them as the direct descendants of English parishes; the 
charter theory gives them a natural development following 
the outline given in the charter, a little colony within a 
large colony. All these theories may contain a truth of 
their own, but they never adequately explained the real 
origin of New England towns. The story of the New Eng- 
land proprietors shows no semblance to any one of these hy- 
potheses. On the other hand, it goes to show plainly that 
New England towns were founded as a result of a simple 
business arrangement to meet the exigencies of the colo- 
nists amid the new environment. 

In the first place, there was no definitely conceived plan 
at first in the founding of towns; in fact, it took over 
twenty years before any definite form of founding town- 
ships was systematically developed on the New England 
soil. In the second place, the "town" was at first nothing 
but a simple land community for the sole purpose of settle- 
ment and from it the political community gradually de- 
veloped as a result of the separation of powers. 

The land was given away in a tract by the general court 
to a group of individuals for the purpose of settlement. 
The tracts were settled in groups and each group was in- 
vested with an authority to manage its own affairs. At 


first there was no unified plan in any settlement and even 
the system of land grants to groups, we have seen, had an 
evolution of its own. These original settlers or grantees 
became the proprietors of the land which was granted to 
them and they formed a simple agrarian community, bound 
by the common ownership of land. The first town meeting 
held was the meeting of these proprietors for the better 
ordering of their land and its divisions. The whole move- 
ment was not pre-conceived ; it was a natural business proc- 
ess, an effort to possess, develop, and settle a tract of land. 
The diversity of interest followed on the heels of their 
settlement and an effort to bring about better management 
of their common life resulted in the separation of powers. 
The proprietors elected the selectmen to look after the 
political side of their town life, while they kept to them- 
selves the exclusive jurisdiction over the town land. 

The significance of the New England proprietors in this 
connection, thus, is their prior existence in comparison with 
that of the town and their absolute control of the land, 
their raison d'etre. A township, in other words, was 
merely an arrangement in the first instance to define, 
though sometimes very vaguely, the territorial jurisdiction 
of a group of proprietors and at first there was no political 
significance attached thereto. Out of this simple business 
arrangement later arose the system of plantations and 
then of incorporated towns. "The Massachusetts town- 
meeting was in its origin the meeting of the body of pro- 
prietors of the corporation for the transaction of corporate 
affairs ... in its character commercial and modern, and 
not feudal or primitive. ' ' 1 

As to the institution of proprietorship itself, the long 

1 Adams, Genesis of Massachusetts Towns, 205. It is only fair 
to add that he does not stop at this point; he goes so far as to at- 
tempt to show that the Massachusetts towns are based on the plan 
of the charter. 


history of human experience at various stages in various 
countries constitutes one large background. It was prac- 
ticed in some form or another from an early date in Eng- 
land and in continental Europe. This is particularly 
true with reference to the system of common fields. 2 But 
in this case also, though resemblance between the land com- 
munities of New England and those of the Old World is 
striking, one can not press the analogy too far. To say the 
least, there is no evidence of any conscious imitation of the 
Old World system on the part of the Puritan leaders or of 
any definitely outlined system at first, as has again and 
again been stated. At best one can point to the continuity 
of human experience and the projection of the past upon 
the present. 

Whatever the custom with which they were acquainted, 
the Puritan settlers transplanted them to the new soil and 
developed them in harmony with the new spirit and the 
new environment. Men came together as neighbors and, 
being also necessitated by the importance of local church 
relations and the need of mutual protection, they settled 
together in groups. Herein is the key to the peculiar de- 
velopment of the New England land system. The group 
settlement resulted in group control over the land and it 
gradually developed into a system of proprietary land 
grants. The system at first existed only as a matter of 
course and it was not legally defined until the close of the 
seventeenth century. Then also, besides the system of com- 
mon fields and common pasturage which practically died 
out by the opening of the eighteenth century, there was 
little in the New England system of proprietors which 
closely, or even roughly, resembled the kindred institu- 
tions of the Old World. 3 

2 Egleston, op. cit., 22-23 ; Andrews, River Towns of Connecticut, 

3 Enoch A. Bryan, The Marie in Europe and America, a Review 



The land speculation of the eighteenth century is a sig- 
nificant page in the history of the New England proprietors. 
We have seen that, from the second quarter of the century, 
the speculative mania had completely seized the land policy 
of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. We 
have seen also how the proprietors came under the same 
influence and how they speculated upon frontier lands, both 
in and out of the New England colonies. As a result, the 
frontier and the unoccupied lands became the focus points 
of interest and the compact settlements of the early period 
were practically displaced by the scattered settlements over 
a wide area. The socio-religious character of the early 
Puritan towns gave way to the domination of the commer- 
cial element. Moreover, the current of Puritan class con- 
trol was breaking at every turn of the outward-expanding 
waves, while the group consciousness and cooperative spirit 
gave way to the individual success and individualism of 
the frontier. The one material contribution of the specula- 
tive land policy, as we have already noted, was the occupa- 
tion of the frontier district. Pressed by the increasingly 
dense population and lured by the speculative proprietors, 
the less prosperous, the ambitious, and the more adven- 
turous in the old town population moved farther west and 
north. Away from the restraints of a solidified economic 
and social conditions of the older sections, the frontier af- 
forded them the unrestricted life of a pioneer community. 
But they did not stop there; there were no geographical 
lines nor colonial boundary limits to the movement for ex- 
pansion. The migratory tendency of the sturdy New Eng- 

of the Discussion on Early Land Tenure, is an admirable attempt 
to show the fallacy of the Germanic origin of the New England 
towns and proprietors. The Chapter VII, on ' ' The Marie in Amer- 
ica," is particularly significant from this point of view. 


land elements was already afoot and in full motion. Not 
only did they penetrate the New England frontiers farther 
northward, but they followed the revival of the western 
claims and settled on the Delaware and the Susquehanna, 
even reaching as far as the Carolinas, Georgia, and the 
south Mississippi Valley. Such is the background of the 
New England expansion and emigration westward which 
never stopped until, after the Revolutionary period, they 
penetrated the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys and beyond. 4 
Next to the migratory tendency of the New Englanders, 
the influence of the speculative proprietors was no less 
striking. The land speculation opened up a new avenue 
of activities to the shrewd land jobbers and of investment 
to capitalists of all sorts. It enriched many of the political 
leaders through their shares in the commercialized land 
grants. The speculative proprietors or their agents, as 
we have seen, created imaginary wealth and penetrated not 
only the New England colonies but also New York and New 
Jersey, and even England, in their effort to harvest profits 
from their lands. As against the radical pioneers on the 
frontiers, the well-to-do and more or less prosperous class 
on the sea board and in the old interior towns, disinclined 
to move away from their homes, became the breeding 
ground of speculators. But the good lands in the New 
England colonies were being rapidly occupied and ex- 
hausted and, by the close of the colonial period, these spec- 
ulative proprietors had already fixed their eyes upon the 
more fertile and expansive western lands. The revival of 
the Connecticut claim to the western lands and the forma- 

4 One can see the direct influence of the New England land sys- 
tem in the movement connected with the promotion of the Ohio 
Company of 1786 and the settlement of Marietta, Ohio, the Scioto 
Company of 1802 by men from Granby, Conn., the Granville Com- 
pany by people of Becket, Mass. Mathews, Expansion of New Eng- 
land, Chapters VI and VII. 


tion of the Delaware Company and the Susquehanna Com- 
pany marked only the beginning. Greater speculations 
over the western lands were yet to come under the leader- 
ship of the New England speculators. To these activities 
of the post-Revolutionary period the speculative proprie- 
tors of the New England colonies form a fitting background. 
Indeed, the ground was amply prepared for such great 
speculative undertakings as the Phelps-Gorham Purchase 
of 1786, 5 the formation of the Connecticut Gore Land Com- 
pany in 1795,° the Ohio Company of 1787, the Scioto Pur- 
chase of 1787, the Connecticut Land Company of 1795, and 
numerous other similar enterprises. 7 


The institution of common lands and proprietorship, in 
which are involved such valuable principles as reservation 
and conservation, supervision of settlements, absolute own- 
ership of real property, small tract grants, and mutuality 
and neighborliness of community life, without doubt greatly 
helped to solve many difficult land problems in the early 
New England colonies, to facilitate the settlements of till- 
able areas, and also to add many a useful principle to the 
land policy of the United Statets later. 8 But that that sys- 
tem without modification was by no means perpetually 
adapted to the growing colonies in the later stages of their 

5 See O. Turner, The History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps 
and Gorham's Purchase. Bochester, N. Y., 1870. 

6 See, Albert C. Bates, The Connecticut Gore Land Company, in 
American Historical Association, Annual Report, 1898, 139-162. 

7 See for example, Mathews, op. cit., Chapters VI-VII, passim. 
The speculation over the lands in Maine also continued to color 
Massachusetts politics and a series of townships were granted to 
speculative proprietors in the post-Revolutionary period. See Wil- 
liamson, History of Maine, II, passim. The Bingham Purchase and 
the Knox-Duer speculation in Maine are the outstanding examples. 

8 Ford, Colonial Precedents of Our National Land System. 


development was clearly shown through the various types of 
non-proprietors' cause. In other words, those controversies 
between the two opposing classes are particularly significant 
in pointing out how the established system becomes obsolete 
in a new period in which new ideas prevail; they are, in- 
deed, conclusively illustrative of a conflict of ideas and 
ideals, old and new, conservative and radical, in a transition 
period. The system of common and undivided lands, in the 
first half century of colonizing experiments, for example, 
was a great and undeniable factor of development and 
served to increase harmony and mutuality among the first 
settlers by reason of being "common." But in the next 
half century, as the colonies developed rapidly, the people 
became more democratic, and new social philosophy began 
to occupy the minds of the masses, it became rather a 
"breeding ground" of inequality, jealousy, and antipathy, 
especially as regards individual rights and social position. 
Again, its feudatory nature of landlordism which was typi- 
fied by the proprietorship, while at first it gave dignity to 
the Pilgrim Fathers and order to the new social life in the 
new world, was one of the things which could not have been 
woven into a democratic fabric of the New England colonies 
in the eighteenth century. This was particularly true in 
the light of the individualistic and democratic tendencies 
of the frontier towns and settlements where aversion to 
authority was most highly developed and the proprietary 
land system was almost impracticable. It may be said, 
then, that the controversies between the proprietors and 
the non-proprietors are significant in pointing out not so 
much the defects or faults of the land system as such, but 
rather the impracticability and inadequacy of that system 
in the new age with its new ideas and changed ideals. 

On the other hand, that the existence of the institution 
of proprietorship and the consequent unrest among the non- 
proprietors had a strong impetus and a favorable effect 


upon the actual settlement of the frontier towns is inevi- 
table and can not be denied. Positively speaking, the pro- 
prietors in general constituted a capitalist class, particu- 
larly in the eighteenth century, and in that capacity they 
helped to push the adventures of the pioneers and frontiers- 
men through their strong encouragement. Herein lies, 
among other things, the real significance of the absentee 
proprietorship, the personnel of which has been pointed out 
as containing men of wealth and influence, living in eastern 
towns. Although this group did not actually face the labor 
and suffering of the frontier towns, nevertheless they con- 
tributed their share — an important share too — in bearing 
the invisible burdens of settlements. But the evils of 
absenteeism were equally great. Not only did they raise 
the difficult problem of delinquency, but they became the 
cause of unrest in many towns and the discontented inhabi- 
tants on this account often sought liberty and freedom 
by moving toward the frontier towns or wilderness. 9 
These two causes some times acted together. Thus, in the 
settlement of Concord in 1726, for example, thirty-six of 
the one hundred settlers were emigrants from Haverhill 
and of these thirty-six only eleven were proprietors of the 
latter town. 10 The situation becomes clearer if we project 
this movement against the general background of discon- 
tentment among the non-proprietors and the consequent 
bitter controversies in Haverhill during the preceding 
years, especially during 1723-1725. u 

The controversies between proprietors and non-proprie- 

9 See an interesting suggestion by Turner, Frontier in American 
History, Chapter 11, ("The First Official Frontier of Massachu- 
setts"), 56-65. In one of the conclusions he wrote: " Individualistic 
and democratic tendencies were emphasized both by the wilderness 
conditions and, probably, by the prior contentions between the pro- 
prietors and non-proprietors of the towns from which settlers 
moved to the frontier. " Ibid., 65. 

*° Chase, History of Haverhill, 274. n See above 128# . 


tors had shown above all else that there must exist no 
distinct privileged class in the New England colonies and 
that the removal of all such distinctions was one of the 
requisites for the wholesome cooperation of all inhabitants 
in fitting and accelerating the pioneer town life on a har- 
monious road of progress and prosperity. The whole prin- 
ciple underlying the controversies was, indeed, a defiance 
against the vestige, so to speak, of feudalism in America. 
It was a voice of the people restive under the restraint of 
the privileged and more conservative class, proud and 
domineering; it was a voice of democracy. With this view 
in mind, the result of controversies as a whole appear by 
no means encouraging ; but the existence of the wide-spread 
demonstrations against proprietors more than helped to 
eliminate the class rule in the New England colonies and 
to lay a further background for the American Revolution. 
On the other hand, it was largely the landed proprietors 
who constituted the loyalists of the New England colonies 
and their lands were confiscated on that ground. 12 In fact, 
these controversies "afford a striking commentary on that 
agrarian revolution [referring to Old Rome] by which 
the common people of Massachusetts declared their inde- 
pendence of lordly townsmen in the commune long before 
the English Colonies in America threw off the tyranny of a 
privileged class of rulers. ' ' 13 

In short, there were economic grievances within the circles 
of colonists themselves, among the common people against 
the domineering proprietors who controlled the colonial 
government, before that grievance was finally transposed 
into opposition on the part of the colonists against the 
home government. 

i 2 See for example, such cases as that of Samuel Waldo 's heirs 
or of Francis Bernard's Mount Desert Island Grant. 

*3 Adams, Village Communities of Cape Anne and Salem, 68, Note, 



I. proprietors' records 

The proprietors' records constitute the most important 
of all sources for the present study. Generally speaking, 
the proprietors' records are of two kinds: the minutes of 
the proprietors' meetings and the records of land grants. 
While the former are more important in connection with 
this study, they are found to be very scanty ; at best, they 
are only formal summaries of meetings. The major part 
of practically all proprietors' records consists of the cold 
facts of the distribution of land, with description of bound- 
aries and rudimentary maps. 

No attempt has been made to reach all existing proprie- 
tors' records. On the other hand, an effort has been made 
to select certain types according to the types of proprietors. 
Moreover, the Massachusetts proprietors' records have been 
used more extensively than those of the other states, since 
the Massachusetts proprietors preceded the kindred in- 
stitution of the other colonies and they typified the general 
course of development. 

The following guides were useful in locating the proprie- 
tors' records, particularly the manuscript records, in the 
several States. For Massachusetts: C. D. Wright, Report 
on the Custody and Condition of the Public Records of 
Parishes, Towns, and Counties, Boston, 1889 (The report 
is continued annually thereafter, being published by the 
State as the Public Record Commissioners' Report or Report 
No*. 52) ; Public Archives Commission, Report on the Public 
Archives of Massachusetts, American Historical Association 
Annual Report, 1900, II. 47-59. For Maine : Allen John- 
son, Report on the Archives of the State of Maine, being the 
9th report of the Public Archives Commission, Appendix A, 
in American Historical Association Annual Report, 1908, I : 



257-318 ; Report on the Condition of Town and County Rec- 
ords in Maine, Putnam's Monthly Historical Magazine, 
Sept-Dec, 1893, Series 2. For Rhode Island: C. S. Brig- 
ham, Report on the Archives of Rhode Island, Washington, 
1904; Amos Perry, The Town Records of Rhode Island, 
Rhode Island Historical Society, Publications, New Series, 
Vol. I, No. 2, Providence, 1893. For Connecticut : Report of 
the Temporary Examiner on the Condition of Local Rec- 
ords, 1904; N. P. Mead, Public Archives of Connecticut — 
County, Probate, and Local Records, American Historical 
Association, Annual Report, 1906, II: 53-127 (See also 
Ibid., 1900, II.). For general purposes, A. R. Hasse, Ma- 
terials for a Bibliography of the Public Archives of the 
Thirteen Original States, American Historical Association, 
Annual Report, 1906, II : 239-572. 


Attleborough, Mass. Old Proprietary Records: Rehoboth 
North Purchase. 5 Bks. in 2 Vols. Vol. I, Bk. 2 covers 
the acts of the Proprietors. (Taunton Registry of 
Deeds, Transcripts). 

Baldwin, Me. Proprietors' Records, 1735-1818. (Maine 
Historical Society). 

Bath, N. H. Proprietors' Records of Bath. (New Hamp- 
shire Historical Society). 

Bridgewater, Mass. Proprietors' Records of Bridgewater. 
3 Vols. (Transcripts, Plymouth Registry of Deeds). 

Brimfield, Mass. The Proprietors' Records, 1731-1824, 
Abstracts of Land Grants. (Transcripts, Springfield 
Registry of Deeds). 

Canaan, Conn. Proprietors' Records, 1737-1844. (Salis- 
bury Town Clerk's Office). 

Chester, Mass. The Proprietors' Records of No. 9 or Mur- 
ray field, 1762-1784. (Transcript, Springfield Registry 
of Deeds). 

Chester, Conn. Records of the Proprietors of the Two- 
Mile Section or Potaconk Lands of the Town of Say- 
brook, now included in the Town of Chester, 1730/31- 
1753. (Connecticut State Library). 

i Unless otherwise stated, the records are original. 


Cohasset, Mass. Proprietors' Record of Conihasset Grant, 
1649-1767. (Transcript, Plymouth Registry of Deeds). 

Concord, N. H. Proprietors' Records. (New Hampshire 
Historical Society) . 

Cornwall, Conn. Proprietors' Records, 1737-1865. 2 Vols. 
(Town Clerk's Office). 

Dighton, Mass. Old Proprietors' Records: Taunton South 
Purchase, Town of Dighton. 1672-1795 (Transcript, 
Taunton Registry of Deeds). 

Deerfield, Mass. Proprietors' Records of Pocumiuek alias 
Deer field, 1697-1799. (Transcript, Greenfield Regis- 
try of Deeds). 

Durham, Conn. Records of Killingworth Proprietors' 
Meetings, together with Deeds of Lands and Survey 
Records. 29 Docs. (Connecticut State Library). 

East Hoosuck. East Hoosuck Proprietors' Book of Rec- 
ords. (North Adams, Mass., City Hall). 

East Windsor, Conn. Records of the Proprietors of the 
Common Field, 1717-1854. (Connecticut State Li- 
brary) . 

Egremont, Mass. Proprietors' Records of Egremont, 1757- 
1863. (Transcript, Great Barrington Registry of 

Falmouth, Me. Proprietors' Records, 1730-1826, 3 Vols. 
(Portland Registry of Deeds). 

Goshen, Conn. Proprietors' Records, 1739-1872, 3 Vols. 
(Town Clerk's Office). 

Gosport, N. H. Proprietors' Records of Gosport. (New 
Hampshire Historical Society). 

Granby, Mass. Proprietors' Records of Granby (Second 
Parish of Hadley ) , 1719/20-1805. ( Transcript, North- 
ampton Registry of Deeds). 

Hadley, Mass. Proprietors' Records of Hadley, 1665-1779. 
(Transcript, Northampton Registry of Deeds). 

Hartford, Conn. Proprietors' Title to Lands and Suites 
Concerning it, being the Doe. "No. 283" ; Proprietors 
Rights, Miscellaneous, being the Doc. "No. 284" ; Legal 
Papers, being the Doc. "No. 282." (All in Connect- 
icut State Library). 

Hartford, Conn. The Proprietors' Records of the North 
Meadow in Hartford, 1675-1792. (Connecticut His- 
torical Society). 


Hartford, Conn. Records of the Division of Hartford Com- 
mons and Highways therein, 1753. (Connecticut State 
Library) . 

Hartwood, Mass. (later Washington). Proprietors 9 Book 
of Records for the Township of Hartwood, 1763-1788. 
(Pittsfield Court House, Mass.) 

Hatfield, Mass. The Proprietors' Records for the Town of 
Hatfield, 1672-1736, and The Proprietors' Records of 
Bradstreet and Dennisons Farm, Hatfield, 1712-1735. 
(Transcript, Northampton Registry of Deeds). 

Housatonnoc No. 1. The Proprietors Book of Records for 
the Township No. 1 at Housatonnoc (later Ty ring- 
ham), Book L, 1737-1762. (Great Barrington Regis- 
try of Deeds). 

Housatonnoc No. 2. The Proprietors' Records of New 
Marlborough, 1737-1790. 2 Vols. (Transcript, Great 
Barrington Registry of Deeds). 

Housatonnoc No. 3. The Proprietors' Book of Records, 
1736/7-1792 (later Sandisfield, Mass.) (Great Bar- 
rington Registry of Deeds). 

Keene, N. H. Proprietors' Records of Upper Ashuelot, 
1734-1786. 2 Vols. (Upper Ashuelot, 1734-1753; 
Keene, 1753-1786). (Town Clerk's Office). 

Kennebec Proprietors or Plymouth Company. Records of 
Proprietors of the Kennebec Purchase, 1749-1822. 5 
Vols. (Maine Historical Society). 

Kennebec Proprietors or Plymouth Company Submission 
of Settlers on Plymouth Company Land. 8 Vols. 
(Kennebec Purchase, Vols. I-V; Waldo Claims, Vols. 
I-III). (Massachusetts Archives.) 

Kent, Conn. Proprietors' Records, 1739-1782. (Town 
Clerk's Office). 

Kittery, Me. Proprietors' Records of Kittery, 1713- 
1782. (Maine Historical Society). 

Lincolnshire Company or Waldo Patentees. Records of 
the Lincolnshire Company and the Twenty Associates, 
1766-1794. (Massachusetts Historical Society). 

Lincolnshire Company or Waldo Patentees. Lincolnshire 
Company Miscellaneous Papers, 1717-1802. (Massa- 
chusetts Historical Society). 


Lower Housatonic. Proprietors 9 Records of Lower Housa- 
tonic, 1722-1857. 2 Vols. (Transcripts, Great Bar- 
rington Registry of Deeds). 

Madison, Conn. Records of the Proprietors of "Hammon- 
asset Quarter/' Guilford, Now Madison, 1715-1841. 
(Connecticut Historical Society). 

Marshfield, Mass. Proprietors 9 Record of Marshfield: First 
and Second Divisions in the Major's Purchase. (Tran- 
script, Plymouth Registry of Deeds). 

Middleborough, Mass. Proprietors' Records of Middle- 
borough. 2 Vols. (Transcript, Plymouth Registry 
of Deeds). 

Mount Washington, Mass. Proprietors' Records of Mount 
Washington Propriety or "Tocconnock," 1778-1839. 
(Transcript, Great Barrington Registry of Deeds). 

Narragansett No. 4. Proprietors' Records of Narraganset 
No. 4 (Goffstown, N. H.), 1732-1778. (Transcript, 
Northampton Registry of Deeds, Mass.). 

New Hartford, Conn. Proprietors' Records, 1732-1809. 
(Town Clerk's Office). 

Norfolk, Conn. Norfolk Proprietors' Records, 1754-1856. 
2 Bks. (Bk. A on Land Grants; Bk. B. on Proprie- 
tors' Meetings). (Norfolk Savings Bank, Norfolk, 

Northampton, Mass. Proprietors' Records of the Town of 
Northampton. (Northampton Registry of Deeds). 

Pejepscot Proprietors. Records of the Pejepscot Proprie- 
tors. 10 Vols. (Maine Historical Society). 

Pelham, Mass. Proprietors' Records of Pelham, Massachu- 
setts, 1738/9-1767. (Northampton Registry of Deeds) . 

Pemaquid Proprietors. Pemaquid Proprietors' Book of 
Records. 2 Bks., 1743-1774. Also "Partition of 
Lands in Pemaquid Patent" (1752-1763) . (American 
Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Mass.). 

Plymouth, Mass. Proprietors' Records of Plymouth. 
(Transcript, Plymouth Registry of Deeds). 

Raymond, Me. Proprietors' Records, 1734-1767. (Maine 
Historical Society). 

Rehoboth, Mass. Proprietors of Rehoboth: Meetings, 1 
Vol., and Land Records and Deeds, 5 Bks. (Taunton 
Registry of Deeds). 


Rochester, Mass. Rochester Proprietors' Book of Records, 
4 Bks. ; Plans and Lands, 4 Vols, and 7 Bks. (Ply- 
mouth Registry of Deeds). 

Salisbury, Conn. Proprietors' Records, 1739-1835. (Town 
Clerk's Office). 

Sanford, Me. Proprietors' Records, 1717-1771. (Maine 
Historical Sqciety). 

Savoy, Mass. Savoy, Massachusetts, Proprietors' Records, 
1771-1799. (Adams Registry of Deeds, Mass.). 

Saybrook, Conn. Records of the Proprietors, Meetings of 
Potapauge Quarter. (Connecticut State Library). 

Scarborough, Me. Proprietors Records, 1720-1762. (Maine 
Historical Society). 

Sharon, Conn. Proprietors' Records, 1738-1884, 5 Vols. 
(Town Clerk's Office). 

Springfield, Mass. The Proprietors' Records of the In- 
ward Commons of Sprmgfield, 1713-1813, 3 Vols.; 
The Proprietors' Records of the Outward Commons 
of Springfield, 1699-1799, 2 Vols. (Transcript, Spring- 
field Registry of Deeds). 

South Hadley, Mass. Proprietors' Records of South Had- 
ley, 1719-1835. (Transcript, Northampton Registry 
of Deeds). 

Suffield, Conn. Proprietors' Records of Suffield, 1716-1821, 
2 Vols. (Town Clerk's Office). 

Taunton, Mass. Old Proprietary Records: North Purchase, 
7 Vols. ; Taunton, 6 Vols. (Transcript, Taunton Regis- 
try of Deeds). 

Union, Conn. Records of the Original Proprietors of the 
Town of Union, Connecticut. (Transcript by Charles 
Hammond, 1866, in Connecticut State Library). 

Upper Housatonnock. The Proprietors' Book of Records 
for Upper Housatonnock, so called, alias Upper Shef- 
field. (Great Barrington Registry of Deeds). 

Windham, Me. Proprietors' Records, 1734-1814. Also 
Two Books of Land Records. (Maine Historical So- 


Buxton, Me. Records of the Proprietors of Narraganset 
Township, No. 1, now the Town of Buxton, York 


County, Maine, 1733-1811. Edited by Cryus Wood- 
man. Concord, N. H., 1871. 

Cambridge, Mass. Proprietors' Records: the Registered 
Book of the Lands and Houses in the "New Towne" 
and the Town of Cambridge . . . 1635-1829. Cam- 
bridge, Mass., 1896. 

Charlestown, Mass. Chariest own Land Records, 1638- 
1802. Boston Record Commissioners' Report, Vol. 
Ill, 2nd Ed., Boston, 1883. 

Colchester, Conn. Extracts from the Records of Colchester 
. . . Hartford, Conn., 1864. Proprietors Records are 
scattered throughout the book, covering the period 

Enfield, Conn. Commoners' Book. Book A, 1711-1808, in 
Allen, History of Enfield, 1 : 680-912. Also Committee 
Book and Land Grants, Ibid, respectively, 1 : 60-135 
and 1 : 136-280. Lancaster, Pa., 1900. 

Hartford, Conn. Original Distribution of the Lands in 
Hartford among the Settlers, 1639. Edited by A. C. 
Bates. Connecticut Historical Society, Collections, 
Vol. XIV. Hartford, 1912. 

Lancaster, Mass. The Early Records of Lancaster, Massa- 
chusetts, 1643-1725 includes the Proprietors' Records 
for 1716/7-1724/5, pp. 176-211. Lancaster, 1884. 

Lebanon, N. H. Proprietors' Records of Lebanon, 1761- 
1774, in C. A. Downs, History of Lebanon, pp. 8-43. 
Concord, N. H., 1908. 

Londonderry, Windham, and Derry, N. H. Early Records 
of Londonderry, Windham, and Derry, N. H., 1719- 
1762. 2 Vols. Manchester Historical Association, 
Collections, Vols. V-VI. Edited by G. W. Browne. 
Manchester, N. H., 1908, 1911. Proprietors' Records 
are scattered. 

Luneburg, Mass. The Proprietors' Records of the Town 
of Luneburg, Massachusetts . . . 1729-1833. Fitch- 
burg, 1897. 

Manchester, Mass. The Commoners' Records in Town 
Records of Manchester, 2 Vols. Salem, 1889-1891. 

Masonian Proprietors. Records of the Meetings of the 
Masonian Proprietors, 1748-1846. Edited by A. S. 
Batchellor. New Hampshire State Papers, Vol. XXIX 
Pt. 2, pp. 400-644. 


Mendon, Mass. The Proprietors 9 Records of the Town of 
History of Pelham, Amherst, Mass., 1898. 

New Gloucester, Me. Records of the Proprietors of New 
Gloucester . . . Maine Historical Society, Collections, 
(1897), 2nd Series, Vol. VIII: 263-288. Compiled by 
J. W. Penny. 

Pelham, Mass. Pelham Proprietors' Records, 1738-1743, 
and Town Records, 1743-1897. In C. D. Parmenterm, 
History of Pelham, Amherst, Mass., 1898. 

Pejepscot Proprietors. The Pejepscot Proprietors: Records 
and Papers to 1766. Documentary History of Maine, 
XXIV: 199-464. Edited by J. P. Baxter. Portland, 

Pemaquid Proprietors. Papers relating to Pemaquid . . . 
(From Original Documents in the State Department 
of New York). Albany, 1856. Also in Maine His- 
torical Society, Collections, 1st Series, V: 1-139. 

Peterborough, N. H. (i The Records of the Original Pro- 
prietors" of Peterborough, Appendix to A. Smith, His- 
tory of the Town of Peterborough. Boston, 1876. 

Roxbury, Mass. Roxbury Land Records and Church Rec- 
ords. Boston Record Commissioners, Report, VI. 2nd 
ed. Boston, 1884. 

Salem, Mass. The Records of the Salem Commoners, 1713- 
1739. Edited by G. F. Dow. Salem, 1903. 

Sowams. The Records of the Sowams Propriety. In T. W. 
Bicknell, Sowams: with Ancient Records of Sowams 
and Parts Adjacent, pp. 33-122. (1653-1797). New 
Haven, 1908. 

Waterbury, Conn. Proprietors' Records of the Town of 
Waterbury, Connecticut, 1677-1761. Transcribed and 
edited by K. A. Prichard. Mattatuck Historical So- 
ciety, 1911. 

Watertown, Mass. Watertown Proprietors' Records in 
Watertown Records, Vol. I, pp. 147-186. Watertown, 

Worcester, Mass. Records of the "Proprietors" of Wor- 
cester, Massachusetts. Edited by F. P. Rice. Wor- 
cester Society of Antiquity, Collections, Vol. III. Wor- 
cester, 1881. 



The town records were useful in tracing the relation 
between the proprietors and the town. Moreover, in the 
earlier years in the older towns, the proprietors ' votes were 
indiscriminately entered in the town records and the town 
votes give light to the early development of proprietors. 
The town records, also, very often give general background 
to the proprietors ' activities. Where the system of common 
fields existed the town regulated the troublesome question 
of fencing; even the common and undivided lands were 
sometimes subject to a similar regulation. 

The guides already named also serve for the town records, 
both printed and manuscript. The list given below is only 
a selected list and therefore incomplete. I have used only 
the printed town records. 

Amherst, Mass. Records of the Town of Amherst, 1735- 
1788. Edited by J. F. Jameson. Amherst, 1884. 

Boston, Mass. Boston Records and the Book of Possessions. 
Boston Record Commissioners' Report, Vol. I. Boston, 

Boston, Mass. Records of Boston Selectmen, 1701-1715. 
Boston Record Commissioners' Report, Vols. XI, XIII, 
XV, XVII, XIX, XX, XXII. Boston, 1884. 

Boxford, Mass. Boxford Town Records, 1685-1706. Es- 
sex Institute Historical Collections, XXXVI: 41-103. 
Copied by S. Perley. Salem, 1910. 

Braintree, Mass. Records of the Town of Braintree, 1640- 
1793. Edited by S. A. Bates. Randolph, Mass., 1886. 

Bridgewater, Mass. Town Records of Bridgewater, Massar 
chusetts. Brockton, 1889. 

Brookfield, Mass. Brookfield Records, 1686-1783. In J. 
H. Temple, History of North Brookfield. North Brook- 
field, 1887. 

Cambridge, Mass. The Records of the Town of Cambridge, 
Massachusetts, 1630-1703. Cambridge, 1901. 

Concord, Mass. Concord Town Records, 1732-1820. Con- 
cord, 1894. 

Dedham, Mass. Early Records of the Town of Dedham, 
Massachusetts, 4 Vols. Edited by Dow Gleason Hill. 
Dedham, 1892. 


Derby, Conn. Town Records of Derby, Connecticut, 1655- 
1710. Derby, 1901. 

Dorchester, Mass. Dorchester Town Records, 1632-1691. 
Boston Record Commissioners' Report, Vol. IV, 2nd 
Ed. Boston, 1883. 

Dudley, Mass. Town Records of Dudley, Massachusetts, 
1732-1794. 2 Vols. Pawtucket, R. I., 1895. 

Duxbury, Mass. Old Records of the Town of Duxbury, 
Massachusetts, 1642-1770. Copied by Geo. Netheridge. 
Plymouth, 1893. 

Fitchburg, Mass. The Old Records of the Town of Fitch- 
burg, Massachusetts. 4 Vols. Compiled by W. A. 
Davis. Fitchburg, 1893. 

Groton, Mass. Early Records of Groton, Massachusetts, 
1662-1707. Edited by S. A. Green. Groton, 1880. 
(Proprietors' Records, pp. 143-185). 

Hanover, N. H. Records of the Town of Hanover, New 
Hampshire, 1761-1818. Vol. I. Hanover, 1905. 

Ipswich, Mass. Ancient Records of the Town of Ipswich. 
Edited by G. A. Achefield. Vol. I., 1634-1650. Ips- 
wich, 1899. 

Manchester, N. H. Early Records of the Town of Derry- 
field, New Manchester, New Hampshire, 5 Vols. Vol. 
I., 1751-1782. Edited by G. W. Browne. Manchester 
Historical Association, Collections, VIII-XII. 

Nantucket, Mass. Papers relating to the Island of Nan- 
tucket. Compiled by F. B. Hough. Albany, N. Y., 

Oxford, Mass. The Records of Oxford, Mass. Edited by 
Mary de Witt Freeland. Albany, N. Y., 1894. 

Plymouth, Mass. Records of the Town of Plymouth, 1636- 
1783. 3 Vols. Edited by W. T. Davis. Plymouth, 
1889, 1892, 1903. 

Portsmouth, R. I. Early Records of the Town Portsmouth, 
1639-1697. Providence, 1901. 

Providence, R. I. Early Records of the Town of Provi- 
dence. 20 Vols. Providence, 1892-1909. 

Rowley, Mass. Rowley: the Early Records of the Town 
of Rowley, Mass., 1639-1672. Rowley, 1894. 

Salem, Mass. Salem Town Records, 1634-1680, 2 Vols. 
Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vols. IX, IXL- 
XLII, XLVIII-IL. Edited by N. 0. Howes. 


Springfield, Mass. First Century of the History of Spring- 
field: the Official Records, 1636-1736. Vol. I., edited 
by H. R. Burt. Springfield, 1898. 

Standish, Me. Records. Maine Historical and Geneologi- 
cal Recorder, No. 4, 1888, V : 233-239 ; No. 2, 1889, VI : 

Suffield, Conn. Documentary History of Suffield . . . 
1660-1749. Edited by H. S. Sheldon. Springfield, 
Mass., 1879. 

Tisbury, Mass. Records of the Town of Tisbury, Massa- 
chusetts, 1669-1864. Edited by W. S. Swift and J. "W. 
Cleveland. Boston, 1903. 

Topsfield, Mass. Town Records of Topsfield, Massachu- 
setts, Vol. I., 1659-1739. Topsfield, 1917. 

Watertown, Mass. Watertown Records. 4 Vols. Pre- 
pared by the Historical Society of Watertown. Water- 
town, 1894-1906. 

Weston, Mass. Town of Weston: Records of the First 
Precinct, 1744-1754, and of the Town, 1754-1803. Bos- 
ton, 1893. Also, Town of Weston, Records, 1746- 
1826, 2 Vols., Boston 1893-1894. Edited by M. F. 

Worcester, Mass. Early Records of the Town of Wor- 
cester, 1722-1753. 2 Books. Edited by F. P. Rice. 
Worcester Society of Antiquity, Collections, Vol. II. 
Worcester, 1879-1880. 


Massachusetts Archives: (The general description of the 
Archives and the contents are given in John H. Ed- 
monds, The Massachusetts Archives, Worcester, Mass., 

(1) The Council Records. The manuscript executive 
and judicial records of the governor and council. 
21 Vols., 1692-1777. Also for 1650-1656, 1686- 

(2) The Council Minutes. The manuscript legislative 
records of the governor and council, as the upper 


house of the provincial legislature. Vols. 81-86 

(3) The House Journals. (See below). 

(4) The Miscellaneous Collections. Of these the most 
useful were Lands (Vols. 45-46) and Towns (Vols. 
112-118). The following were also useful: Peti- 
tions (Vols. 105, 303), Letters (Vols. 51-56), Co- 
lonial (Vols. 1-4), Legislative, (Vols. 48-50). 

(5) The Miscellaneous Records. Book of Eastern 
Claims, 1674-1720; Kennebec Purchase, Swbmis- 
mission of Settlers; Land Agents' Accounts; 
Waldo Claims, Submission of Settlers. 

(6) The Maps and Plans. 

Connecticut Archives: (The general description is found 
in the Report of the State Librarian to the Governor , 
Hartford, Conn., 1917.) 
Towns and Lands, 10 Vols., 1629-1789. 
Industry, 2 Vols., 1708-1789. 
Susquehanna Settlers, 1 Vol., 1755-1796. 
Bowdman Papers. 

Suffolk Court Files. The early Court Records in the Office 
of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Suffolk 
County Court House, Boston. (See The Catalogue of 
Records and Files in the Office of the Clerk and the 
Supreme Judicial Court for the County of Suffolk. 
Boston, 1890.) 


1. Massachusetts. 

Acts and Resolves, Public and Private, of the Massa- 
chusetts Bay, 1692-1780, in 19 Vols. Boston, 1869- 

(1) Province Laws, 1692-1780, Vols. I-VI. 

(2) Resolves, etc., 1692-1780, Vols. VII-XIX. 

(3) Town Charters, 1692-1714, Vol. XIX. 
Journals of the House of Representatives of Massa- 

(1) The Massachusetts Historical Society has pub- 
lished 4 volumes covering: I: 1715-1717; II: 
1718-1720; III: 1721-1722; IV: 1722-1723. 
Compiled by W. C. Ford. Boston, 1919-21-22-23. 


(2) For the years 1730-1776, the file of the Massa- 
chusetts Archives is complete. For the years 
between 1722 and 1730, one has to go to several 
places. See W. C. Ford, Bibliography of the 
Massachusetts House Journals, 1715-1776, Pub- 
lication of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 
Collections, IV: 201-289. Boston, 1910. 

The Colonial Laws of Massachusetts. Reprinted from 
the Edition of 1660, with the Supplements to 1672. 
Boston, 1889. This collection and the Province Laws 
above are the easiest available form. For other 
years, see W. C. Ford and A. Mathews, Bibliography 
of the Laws of Massachusetts Bay, 1641-1776, Pub- 
lication of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 
Collections, IV : 291-480. Boston, 1910. 

Land Warrants issued under Andros, 1687-1688. 
Edited by J. H. Tutle. Publication of the Colonial 
Society of Massachusetts, Vol. XXI, Transactions, 
1919, pp. 292-363. Boston, 1920. 

Massachusetts Royal Commissions, 1681-1774. Publi- 
cation of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 
Collections, II. Edited by Albert Mathews. Bos- 
ton, 1913. 

Record of the Council for New England. American 
Antiquarian Society, Proceedings, April 24, 1867. 
Cambridge, 1867. 

Records of the Governor and Company of the Massa- 
chusetts Bay in New England, 1628-1686. Edited 
by N. B. Shurtleff. 5 Vols. Boston, 1853-1854. 

Records of the Colony of New Plymouth m New 
England, 1620-1692. Edited by D. P. Shurtleff, etc. 
12 Vols. Boston, 1855-1861. 

Records and Files of the Superior Court of Judica- 
ture. . . . The Case of Haverhill Proprietors vs. 
Benjamin Barker of Andover, 1740-1745. Publica- 
tion of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Trans- 
actions, Vol. V. (1897-8), pp. 5-26. Edited by John 
Maine : 

Documentary History of the State of Maine. Maine 
Historical Society, Collections, 2nd Series, 22 Vols. 
(State appropriation). Portland, 1869-1910. 


(1) Baxter Manuscripts, containing miscellanous 
materials, both official and private, on the his- 
tory of Maine under the Massachusetts jurisdic- 
tion. 19 Vols. (IV-VI, IX-XXIV). They 
contain numerous extracts of proprietors' rec- 
ords, petitions involving proprietors of several 
towns, and materials on legal cases. 

(2) Farnham Papers, or Documents relating to the 
Territorial History of Maine, 1603-1871, 2 Vols. 
(VII-VIII), edited by Mary F. Farnham. These 
are particularly valuable for patents, deeds and 
other materials bearing upon proprietors. 

(3) Trelawey Papers, etc. 1 Vol. (III). 

Report of the Commissioners to investigate the Causes 
of the Difficulties in the County of Lincoln, with the 
Documents in Support thereof. Boston, 1811. 
(Massachusetts Historical Society and Massachusetts 

York Deeds, 1642-1726. 11 Vols. Portland, 1887- 
3. New Hampshire: 

Acts and Laws of His Majesty f s Province of New 
Hampshire in New England: with Sundry Acts of 
Parliament, 1696-1771. Portsmouth, 1771. 

New Hampshire State Papers: Documents and Papers 
relating to the Province and State of New Hamp- 
shire, 1623-1800. Edited by N. Bouton and others. 
31 Vols. Concord, 1867-1907. 

(1) Provincial Papers, 1603-1776, Vols. I-VII, 
XVIII, XIX. These contain the Journals of 
the General Assembly, the Records of the Coun- 
cil, the Journals of the Council and Assembly, 
and numerous other materials, both official and 

(2) State Papers, 1776-1792, Vols. VIII, XX-XXII. 

(3) Town Papers, 1638-1800, Vols. IX, XI-XIII. 

(4) Town Charters, Vols. XXIV-XXIX. These 
form a most convenient collection of all town 
charters issued by Massachusetts, New Hamp- 
shire, and the Masonian Proprietors in New 
Hampshire and Vermont. The arrangement is 
as follows : 


(a) Town Charters I (XXIV) contains the 
Massachusetts Grants in New Hampshire 
with a complete legislative document and 
the New Hampshire town grants, Aeworth 
to Exeter. Appendix contains additional 
materials on the Massachusetts grants. 

(b) Town Charters II (XXV) contains New 
Hampshire charters, F to W. Appendix 
contains some materials on the first plant- 
ing of New Hampshire. 

(c) Town Charters III (XXVI) contains the 
New Hampshire grants in what is now 

(d) Town Charters IV-VI (XXVII-XXIX) 
contains the Masonian Charters and docu- 
ments. First two volumes contain town 
charters and the last volume materials in 
general, including minutes of their meet- 

4. Connecticut: 

Acts and Laws of His Majesty 's Colony of Connecticut 
in New England. Editions of 1715 and 1769, with 
supplement to 1779. New London, 1779. 

New Haven Colonial Records : 

(1) Records of the Colony and Plantation of New 
Haven. Copied by C. J. Hoadly. Hartford, 

(2) Records of the Colony or Jurisdiction of New 
Haven, 1633-1655. Hartford, 1858. 

Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, 1636- 
1776. Compiled by J. H. Trumbull and C. J. 
Hoadly. 15 Vols. Hartford, 1850-1890. 

Documents relating to the Connecticut Settlement in 
the Wyoming Valley. Edited by W. H. Egle. 
Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd Series, Vol. XVIII. 
Harrisburg, 1890. 

Reports on the Laws of Connecticut . . . by Francis 
Fane. Edited with an introduction by C. M. An- 
drews. New Haven, 1915. List of laws reported 
to the home government from time to time with 
Fane's comments. 


5. Rhode Island : 

Acts and Laws of His Majesty's Colony of Rhode Is- 
land and Providence Plantation in New England. 
Edition of 1767, printed by Samuel Hall, New Port. 

Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence 
Plantation, in New England, 1636-1792. Compiled 
by J. R. Bartlett. 10 Vols. Providence, 1856-1865. 

Documentary History of Rhode Island, edited by H. 
M. Chapin. 2 Vols. Providence, 1916-1919. 

6. Miscellaneous: 

Charlemagne Tower Collection of American Colonial 
Laws. Index is published by the Pennsylvania His- 
torical Society, Philadelphia, 1890, under the above 
title. An important reservoir of American colonial 

Documents relative to the Colonial History of the 
State of New York. Edited by E. B. O'Callaghan 
and B. Fernow. 15 Vols. Albany, 1856-1887. 
These contain valuable materials on the New York- 
New Hampshire controversy over the Vermont 

Documentary History of the State of New York. Ed- 
ited by E. B. O'Callaghan. 4 Vols. Albany, 1849- 
1851. "Papers relating to the Difficulties between 
New York and New Hampshire," Vol. IV, No. 14, 
pp. 529-1034. 

Vermont State Papers: being a Collection of Records 
and Documents connected with the Assumption and 
Establishment of Government by the People of Ver- 
mont . . . Compiled by Wm. Slade, Jr. Middle- 
bury, 1823. "Documents relating to the Contro- 
versy with New York and New Hampshire," pp. 8- 


The New England proprietors, as we have seen, were 
intra-colonial in their activities and these over-sea materials 
were not as important as the other materials already enum- 
erated. Nevertheless, they formed an important source 
of information on many occasions, particularly with refer- 


ence to the larger problem of imperial control and colonial 

The following guides were useful in this branch of in- 
vestigations. Guide to Items relating to American History 
in the Reports of the English Historical Manuscript Com- 
mission and their Appendices. American Historical Asso- 
ciation, Annual Report, 1898. C. M. Andrews, Guide to 
Materials for American History to 1783 in the Public Rec- 
ord Office of Great Britain ... 2 Vols. Washington, 1912- 
14. C. M. Andrews and F. G. Davenport, Guide to the 
Manuscript Materials for the History of the United States 
to 1783, in the British Museum, in Minor London Archives, 
and in the Libraries of Oxford and Cambridge. Washing- 
ton, 1908. 


Board of Trade Journals, 1675-1782. 90 Vols. Trans- 
cripts of the Original Manuscripts in the Public Record 
Office of England. London, 1898. (Pennsylvania 
Historical Society). 

British Musuem, King's Manuscripts, 206. Transcript. 
State of Manufacturing and Mode of Granting Land, 
Fees of Officers, etc., in America. Answers to Circular 
Letter from Lords of Trade, August 1, 1766. (Library 
of Congress). 


Acts of the Privy Council of England, Colonial Series. 
Edited by W. L. Grant and J. Munro. 6 Vols. 1613- 
1766. London and Hereford, 1908-1912. 

Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, 1574-1708, 22 
Vols. London and Hereford, 1880-1916. 

Lists of Reports and Representations of the Plantation 
Councils, 1660-1674, the Lords of Trade, 1675-1696, 
and the Board of Trade, 1696-1782, in the Public 
Record Office. By C. M. Andrews. American His- 
torical Association, Annual Report, 1913, 1 : 321-406. 

Federal and State Constitutions, Charters and Other Or- 
ganic Laws, 1492-1908. 7 Vols. Edited by F. N. 
Thorpe. Washington, 1909. Colonial Charters and 
Patents are most conveniently gathered there in full. 



These were useful, among other things, for three reasons 
in the present study. They (1) give light on the official 
policy of the governors and their officials, (2) furnish con- 
temporary opinions concerning the proprietors' activities, 
and (3) reveal inside workings of the proprietors them- 
selves, which can not be obtained through their records. 
They are all printed. 

Belcher, Jonathan. The Belcher Papers. Massachusetts 
Historical Society, Collections, 6th Series, Vols. VI- 
VII. 2 Vols. Edited by C. C. Smith. Boston, 1893- 
4. Additional Belcher Letters, 1732^-1749 are in 
Massachusetts Historical Soceity Proceedings, XLIV 
(1910) : 189-212. 

Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation. Ed- 
ited by W. T. Davis, in Jameson's " Original Narra- 
tives of Early American History." N. Y., 1908. 

Calendars of Papers and Records relating to the Land Bank 
of 1740. Edited by A. McF. Davis. Publication of 
the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Collections, IV : 
1-200. Boston, 1910. They comprise the materials 
found in the Massachusetts Archives and the Suffolk 
Court Files. 

Colden, Cadwalder. The Colden Letter Book. 2 Vols. 
(Vol. I, 1760-1765; Vol. II, 1765). New York His- 
torical Society, Collections, 1876. 

Colden, Cadwalder. The Letters and Papers of Cadwalder 
Colden. 2 Vols. New York Historical Society, Col- 
lections, Vols. L-LI. New York, 1918. 

Connecticut Historical Society, Collections, contain the fol- 
lowing useful papers of the several governors : 

(1) Talcott Papers, 1724-17U. Edited by M. K. Tal- 
cott. Vols. IV-V. Hartford, 1892-1896. 

(2) Law Papers, 1741-1750. Vols. XI-XIII-XV. 
Hartford, 1907-14. 

(3) Walcott Papers, 1750-1754. Edited by A. C. 
Bates. Vol. XVI. Hartford, 1916. 

(4) Fitch Papers, 1754-1766. Edited by A. C. Bates. 
Vols. XVII-XVIII. Hartford, 1918-1920. 


(5) Pitkin Papers, 1766-1769. Edited by A. C. Bates. 
Vol. XIX. Hartford, 1921. 

Correspondence of the Colonial Governors of Rhode Island, 
1723-1775. 2 Vols. Edited by G. S. Kimball. Na- 
tional Society of the Colonial Dames of America in 
the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation. 
Boston, 1902-1903. 

Correspondence of the Connecticut Governors with the 
British Government, 1755-1758. Connecticut Histori- 
cal Society, Collections, Vol. I., 1860. 

Douglas, William. A Summary, Historical and Political, 
of the . . . British Settlements in North America. 2 
Vols. London, 1760. 

Harris, William. Harris Papers. Rhode Island Histori- 
cal Society, Collections, Vol. X. I. B. Richman has an 
introduction on "The Land Controversy of William 
Harris." Providence, 1902. 

Hempstead, Joshua. Diary of Joshua Hempstead, of New 
London, Connecticut, 1711-1758. Edited by E. E. 
Rogers. New London County Historical Society, Col- 
lections, Vol. I. New London, 1901. Hempstead was 
proprietor of several towns. 

Letters from English Kings and Queens to the Governors 
of the Colony of Connecticut together with the Answers 
thereto from 1635 to 1749. Collected by R. R. Hin- 
man. Hartford, 1836. 

Land Controversies in Maine. Documents from the Court 
Files. Edited by John Noble. Publication, of the 
Colonial Society of Massachusetts, VI, Transactions, 
1899-1900, pp. 11-59. 

Leverett, Charles Edward. A Memoir, Biographical and 
Genealogical, of Sir John Leverett, Governor of Massa- 
chusetts, 1673-1679; of Hon. John Leverett . . . Presi- 
dent of Harvard College. Boston, 1856. John Lev- 
erett was responsible in reviving and organizing the 
Lincolnshire Company. 

Mason, John. Captain John Mason, the Founder of New 
Hampshire. Edited by J. W. Dean. Publication of 
Prince Society. Boston, 1887. It contains Memoir, 
Charters, Letters and Documents. 

Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, contain, 
among other things, the following useful papers : 


(1) Sewall Papers, 1674-1729. 3 Vols. 5th Series. 
Vols. V-VIL Also Sewall Letter Book, 1686-1729, 
2 Vols. 6th Series, Vols. ML 

(2) Winthrop Papers, 5th Series, Vols. IV-VI-VII- 
VIII; 6th Series, Vols. JII, V. 

(3) Trumbull Papers. 4 Vols. 5th Series, Vols. IX- 
X; 7th Series, Vols. II-III. 

Randolph, Edward. Edward Randolph: His Letters and 
Official Papers, etc. Edited by R. N. Toppan. 7 
Vols. Publication of Prince Society. Boston, 1898- 

Shirley, William. Correspondence of William Shirley, 
Governor of Massachusetts and Military Commander 
in America, 1731-^-1760. 2 Vols. Edited by C. H. 
Lincoln. New York, 1912. 

Smith, Rev. Thomas. Journals of the Rev. Thomas Smith 
and the Rev. Samuel Deane. Edited by William Wil- 
lis. Portland, 1849. Thomas Smith was a proprietor 
of Falmouth, Me. 

Stiles, Ezra. Extracts from the Itineraries and Other Mis- 
cellanies of Ezra Stiles, 1755-1794, with a Selection 
from his Correspondence. Edited by F. B. Dexter. 
New Haven, 1916. Stiles was proprietor of several 
towns in New England. 

Winthrop, John. History of New England. Edited by 
J. K. Hosmer, in Jameson's "Original Narratives of 
Early American History." 2 Vols. N. Y., 1908. 

Wolcott, Roger. Roger Wolcott's Memoir. Connecticut 
Historical Society, Collections, Vol. III. Roger Wol- 
cott was a notable land speculator of the early eight- 
eenth century. 


1. Collections: 

Andros Tracts, The. Being a Collection of Pamphlets 

and Official Papers. 3 Vols. Publication of 

Prince Society. Boston, 1868-1874. 
Broadsides, Ballads, &c. printed in Massachusetts, 

1639-1800. Edited by W. C. Ford. Massachusetts 
Historical Society, Collections, Vol. LXXV. Boston, 



Colonial Currency Reprints, 1682-1751. 4 Vols. Ed- 
ited by A. M. Davis. Publication of Prince Society. 
Boston, 1910-11. 

2. On Eastern Claims : 

A Short Narrative on the Claim, Title, and Bight of 
the Heirs of the Honourable Samuel Allen, Esq.; 
Deceased, to the Province of New Hampshire in New 
England : Transmitted from a Gentleman in London, 
to her friend in New England. Boston, 1728. Lon- 
don, (July 2, 1728. (Massachusetts Historical So- 

A Patent for Plymouth in New England To Which 
Is annexed Extracts from the Records of that Colony. 
Boston, 1751. (Massachusetts Historical Society). 

Johnston, Thomas. Maps of Kennebec. Boston, 1752. 
(Massachusetts Historical Society). 

Remarks on the Plan and Extracts of Deeds lately 
published by the Proprietors of the Township of 
Brunswick. Agreeable to their Vote of January 
4th, 1753. Boston, 1753. (Massachusetts Historical 

Plymouth Company. Meeting of the Proprietors of 
the Kennebec Purchase from the late Colony of 
New-Plymouth, on the 12th of January, 1753. Votes. 
(Harvard College Library). 

An Answer to the Remarks of the Plymouth Company, 
or (as they call themselves) the Proprietors of the 
Kennebec Purchase from the late Colony of New- 
Plymouth, published by Virtue of their Vote of 31st 
of January Last; . . . Boston, 1753. (Massachusetts 
Historical Society). 

A Defense Of the Remarks of the Plymouth Company 
on the Plan and Extracts of Deeds, published by the 
Proprietors of the Township of Brunswick. Being 
a Reply to their Answer to said Remarks lately 
published, according to the Vote of March 28, 1753. 
Boston, 1753. (Massachusetts Historical Society). 

The Award and final Determination of the Referees 
respecting the Claims of the Proprietors of the 
Kennebec Purchase from the late Colony of New- 
Plymouth, and the Company holding under Clark 


and Lake, relating to the Lands on each Side of 
Kennebec River. Broadside. Boston, 1757. (Massa- 
chusetts Historical Society) . 

A Brief State of the Title of the Province of Massa- 
chusetts-Bay to the Country between the Rivers 
Kennebec and St. Croix. Boston, 1763. Appendix 
to the Massachusetts House Journal, 1762. 

A Strange Account of the Rising and Breaking of A 
Great Bubble. Boston, 1767. First printed in 1691 ? 
(Massachusetts Historical Society). 

Laws as to Grants in Eastern Parts. (Boston Public 

3. Miscellaneous: 

A Copy of a Relation — Nantucket Land Title . . . New 
Port, 1770. (Massachusetts Historical Society). 

Gale, Benjamine. The Present State of the Colony of 
Connecticut. New London, 1755. (Massachusetts 
Historical Society). 

The State of the Land said to be Once within the 
Bounds of the Charter of the Colony of Connecticut, 
west of the Province of New York, considered. By 
the Public's Humble Servant. N. Y., 1770. (Penn- 
sylvania Historical Society). 

An Examination of the Connecticut Claim to the Lands 
in Pennsylvania, with an Appendix containing Ex- 
tracts and Copies taken from Original Papers. 
Jared Ingersoll. Philadelphia, 1774. (Pennsylvania 
Historical Society). 

The Report of the Commissioners appointed by the 
General Assembly of Connecticut to Treat with the 
Proprietors of Pennsylvania respecting the Boundary 
of this Colony. Norwich, 1774. (Pennsylvania His- 
torical Society). 

Bidwell, Barnabas. The Susquehanna Title Stated and 
Examined. Catskill, N. Y., 1796. (Pennsylvania 
Historical Society). 


News papers were useful solely for the advertisements. 
Numerous notices calling the proprietors' meetings, notify- 


ing the absentee proprietors the charges due or neglected 
settlement, and advertising for sale the delinquent proprie- 
tors' lots are found in plenty in the eighteenth century 
news papers. They have been extremely important in 
checking up the speculative activities of the proprietors. 
There also appeared proprietors' advertisements to procure 
settlers ; this was particularly true with the Great Proprie- 
tors, like the Kennebec Purchase Proprietors. 

I confined myself to the Boston, Hartford, and New York 
papers. The following two guides were extremely .useful. 
M. F. Ayer, Check-list of Boston Newspapers, T70\-1780. 
With bibliographical notes by Albert Mathews. Publication 
of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Collections, IX. 
Boston, 1907. Check List of Newspapers and Official Ga- 
zette in the New York Public Library, compiled by D. C. 
Hoskell. N. Y., 1915. 

The Boston News-Letter, 1704-1776. 

The Boston (Weekly) Post Boy, 1734-1775. 

The Boston Evening Post, 1735-1775. 

The Boston Gazette, 1719-1780. 

The New England C our ant, 1721-1726. 

The New England Weekly Journal, 1727-1741. 

The Independent Advertiser, 1748-1749 

The Boston Chronical, 1767-1770. 

The Massachusetts Gazette, 1768-1769. 

The Connecticut Courant, 1764-1770. 

The New York Gazette, 1725-1769. 

The New York Mercury (Gaine's), 1761-1765. 

The New York Gazette or Weekly Post Boy, 1743-1769. 



1. General: 

Bryan, Enoch Albert. The Mark in Europe and Amer- 
ica: a review of the discussion on early land tenure. 
Boston, 1893. 

Finlayson, W. F. History of the law of tenures of 
land in England and Ireland. London, 1870. 

Fustel de Coulanges. The origin of property in land. 
English translation by Margaret Ashley; edited by 


W. J. Ashley. 3rd ed. London, 1904. (1st ed. 

Lapsley, G. T. The County Palatinate of Durham. 

Harvard Historical Studies. N. Y., 1900. 
Laveleye, Emile De. De la propriete et des formes 

primitives. 5th ed. Paris, 1901. (1st ed. 1874). 
Maurer, Georg von. Einleitung zur Geschichte der 

Mark-Verfassung. 1854. 
Maine, Sir Henry. Ancient Law. London, 1861. 
Maine, Sir Henry. The Village Communities in the 

East and West. London, 1871. 
Nasse, Erwin. On the agricultural community of the 

Middle Ages, and inclosures of the sixteenth century 

in England. English translation by H. A. Ouvry. 

2nd ed. London, 1872. 
Ross, Denman Waldo. The early history of land-hold- 

ing among the Germans. Boston, 1883. 
Scrutton, Thomas Edward. Commons and common 

fields. Cambridge, England, 1887. 
Seebohm, Frederick. The English village community: 

an essay in economic history. 4th ed. Revised. Lon- 
don, 1896. 
Vinogradoff, Paul. Villainage in England. Oxford, 


2. New England : 

Adams, Herbert B. Village community of Cape Anne 
and Salem. Johns Hopkins University, Studies in 
History and Political Science. Vol. I, Nos. 9-10. 

Andrews, Charles M. The river towns of Connecticut: 
a study of W ethers field, Hartford, and Windsor. 
Johns Hopkins University. Studies in Historical 
and Political Science. Vol. VI, Nos. 7-9. Chapter 
II, on Land System. 

Egleston, Melville. The land system of the New Eng- 
land colonies. Johns Hopkins University. Studies 
in History and Political Science, Vol. IV, Nos. 11-12. 

Fry, William Henry. New Hampshire as a royal prov- 
ince. N. Y., 1908. Chapter IV, li The Land System/' 

Hall, Hiland. New York land grants in Vermont, 
1765-1776. Vermont Historical Society, Collections, 
I (1870) : 145-159. 


Haven, Samuel F. History of grants under the Great 
Council for New England. Lowell Institute Lec- 
tures, Chapter IV. Boston, 1869. 

McLear, Anne Bush. Early New England towns: a 
comparative study of their development. N. Y., 
1908. (Also in Columbia University Studies in His- 
tory, Science, and Public Law, XXIX, No. 1) Chap- 
ter IV, "Town Lands." 

Mead, Nelson Prentiss. Connecticut as a corporate 
colony. Lancaster, Pa., 1906. Chapter III. "Land 

Osgood, Herbert L. The American colonies in the 
seventeenth century. 3 Vols. N. Y., 1904. Vol. I, 
Chapter XI, "The land system in the Corporate 
Colonies of New England." Also Vol. I, Chapters 
V and IX were useful on the same subject. 

Smith, Jonathan. Town grants under Belcher. Massa- 
chusetts Historical Society, Proceedings, Vol. 45: 

Sullivan, James. The history of land titles in Massa- 
chusetts. Boston, 1891. 

Washburn, Emory. The tenure of land in New Eng- 
land. Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings, 
1st Series, Vol. XIII : 114-121. Boston, 1875. 

Proprietors and Common Lands: 
Akagi, Roy Hidemichi. The history of the division 

of common lands in Massachusetts: a study of the 

conflicts between proprietors and non-proprietors. 

Typewritten copy of the Thesis in the University of 

Chicago, 1920. 
American digest, Century edition. St. Paul, 1899. 

Chapter X, ' ' Common Lands. ' ' 
Angell, Joseph Kinnicut, and Ames, Samuel. Treatise 

on the law of private corporation aggregate. 11th 

ed., revised by John Lathrop. Boston, 1882 (1st ed. 

1831). Chapter VI, "Of Proprietors of Common 

and Undivided Lands," pp. 181-196. Purely a legal 

Blake, Mortimer. Taunton North Purchase. Old 

Colony Historical Society, Collections, No. 3 (1885), 

pp. 31-53. 


Browne, Benjamine F. An account of Salem com- 
moners. . . . Essex Institute Historical Collections, 
Vol. IV, pp. 2ff, 76#, 129#. 

Clark, Franklin C. The commonage system of Rhode 
Island. The Magazine of History, III (June, 1906) : 
341-356; IV (July, 1906) : 17-25. 

Dorr, Henry C. The proprietors of Providence and 
their controversies with the freeholders. Rhode Is- 
land Historical Society, Collections, Vol. IX. Provi- 
dence, 1897. 

Hammond, Otis Grant. The Masonian title and its 
relation to New Hampshire and Massachusetts. 
American Antiquarian Society, Proceedings, New 
Series, Vol. XXVI (1916) : 245-263. 

Gardiner, Robert H. History of the Kennebec Pur- 
chase, or the proceedings under the grant to the 
colony of Plymouth of lands on the Kennebec. 
Maine Historical Society, Collections, Vol. II: 269- 
294. Portland, 1847. 

Sheldon, John. The common field of Deerfield. Po- 
cumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Proceedings, 
Vol. V (1905-1911) : 238-254. Deerfield, Mass., 1912. 

Staples, Carlton A. The first English proprietors of 
the site of Lexington Village. Lexington Historical 
Society, Proceedings, Vol. II (1889-99) : 5-18. Lex- 
ington, 1900. 

Staples, Carlton A. A sketch of the history of Lexing- 
ton common. Lexington Historical Society, Pro- 
ceedings, Vol. I (1886-1889) : 17-37. Lexington, 

State Supreme Court cases, Reports, of all New Eng- 
land States contain valuable materials on proprie- 

True, R. A. The Salisbury commoners. Amesbury 
Historical Society, Transactions. Vol. I, No. 4. 
Amesbury, 1901. 

Walker, Joseph B. The controversy between the pro- 
prietors of Bow and those of Penny Cook, 1727-1789. 
New Hampshire Historical Society Proceedings, Vol. 
Ill (1895-1899) : 261-292. 

Waters, Thomas Franklin. The development of our 
town government and common lands and commonage. 


Ipswich Historical Society, Publications, Vol. VIII. 
Salem, 1900. 
Worth, Henry Barnard. Nantucket land and land 
owners. Nantucket Historical Association, Bulletin, 
Vol. II, Nos. 1-7 (1901-1902-1904-1906-1910-1913). 
Chapter X (Vol. II, No. 4) is on "Sheep Commons 
and the Propriety." 

4. Miscellaneous: 

Canning, E. W. B. Indian land grants in Stockbridge. 
Berkshire Historical and Scientific Society, Collec- 
tions, 1894, pp. 45-56. 

Ford, Amelia Clewley. Colonial precedents of our 
national land system as it existed in 1800. Univer- 
sity of Wisconsin, Bulletin, History Series, Vol. II. 
Madison, 1910. 

Gordon, George A. Early grant of land in the wilder- 
ness north of Merrimack. Lowell, Mass., 1892. 

Green, S. A. An account of the early land grants of 
Groton, Massachusetts . . . Groton, 1879. 

Perley, Sidney. The Indian land titles of Essex 
County, Massachusetts. Salem, 1912. Mostly In- 
dian deeds. 

Sato, Shosuke. History of land question in the United 
States. Johns Hopkins University, Studies in His- 
tory and Political Science, Vol. IV, Nos. 7-9. Balti- 
more, 1886. 

Schafer, Joseph. The origin of the system of land 
grants for education. University of Wisconsin, 
Bulletin, History Series, Vol. I. Madison, 1902. 

Smith, Jonathan. The Massachusetts and New Hamp- 
shire boundary line controversy, 1693-1740. Massa- 
chusetts Historical Society, Proceedings, Vol. 43 
(Nov. 1909) : 77-88. 

Treat, Payson J. National land system, 1785-1820. 
N. Y., 1910. 

Wright, Harry Andrew. Indian deeds of Hampden 
County. Springfield, Mass., 1905. 


The town histories have been extensively examined and 
freely quoted, due mainly to the importance which is at- 


tached to the following points: (1) that they often contain 
wholesale extracts from town and proprietors' records, 
which are sometimes unavailable elsewhere; (2) that they 
invariably touch upon the story of proprietors with whom 
the town histories generally begin and give an extended 
account, sometimes, of the town land, its distribution or 
sales; (3) that they furnish the general background of pro- 
prietary activities, particularly the background of proprie- 
tary controversies; and (4) that they contain, in many 
cases, long strings of genealogy for proprietors. 

With these points particularly in mind, I have examined 
practically all the available town and county histories in 
the noted New England libraries including Harvard Col- 
lege Library, Boston Public Library, Boston Athaneum 
Library, Massachusetts Historical Society Library, Maine 
Historical Society Library, American Antiquarian Society 
Library, Connecticut State Library, Connecticut Historical 
Society Library, New Hampshire Historical Society Li- 
brary, Forbes Library (Northampton, Mass.), and others. 
The result was, however, disappointing; the majority of 
the town and county histories examined gave no light on 
the subject. It is impossible to enumerate all these books 
which I have examined, under the above circumstances, in 
this list ; the following is a very selected list, with particular 
reference to those books which have been cited in the study. 

The following bibliographical guides were useful in the 
course of investigation. General : A. P. C. Griffin, Bibliog- 
raphy of the historical publications issued by the New Eng- 
land States. Cambridge, 1895. (Publication of the Colo- 
nial Society of Massachusetts, III, 1900). Massachusetts: 
Charles A. Flagg, Guide to Massachusetts local history. 
Maine : Joseph Williamson, A bibliography of the State of 
Maine, from, the earliest period to 1891, 2 Vols., Portland, 
1896. D. B. Hall, Reference list on Maine local history. 
New York State Library, Bulletin, No. 63 (Bibliography 
No. 28), Albany, 1901. New Hampshire: Lists of books 
and pamphlets in the Dover Public Library relating to New 
Hampshire. Dover, 1903. Connecticut : C. A. Flagg, Ref- 
erence list on Connecticut local history, New York State 
Library, Bulletin, No. 53 (Bibliography 23), Albany, 1900. 
J. H. Trumbull, List of books printed in Connecticut, 1709- 
1800. Hartford, 1904. Rhode Island: Bibliography of 


Rhode Island history. Boston, 1902. Since these respec- 
tive dates, G. G. Griffin's Writings on American history 
were extremely helpful. 

1. General: 

Adams, Charles Francis. Genesis of the Massachusetts 
towns, and the development of town-meeting govern- 
ment. Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceed- 
ings, 2nd Series, 1901-2, pp. 174-242. Remarks by 
Goodell, Chamberlaine, and Channing on the same 
subject follow. Reprint of the same, Cambridge, 

Adams, Herbert B. The Germanic origin of New Eng- 
land towns. Johns Hopkins University, Studies in 
History and Political Science, Vol. I., No. 2. Balti- 
more, 1882. 

Aldrich, P. E. Origin of New England towns. Ameri- 
can Antiquarian Society, Proceedings, 1884. 

Channing, Edward. Town and county government 
in the English colonies of North America. Johns 
Hopkins University, Studies in History and Political 
Science, Vol. II, No. 10. 

Foster, W. E. Town government in Rhode Island. 
Johns Hopkins University, Studies in History and 
Political Science, Vol. IV, Pt. 2. 

Howard, George Elliott. An introduction to the local 
constitutional history of the United States. Johns 
Hopkins University, Studies in History and Political 
Science, Extra Volume IV. Baltimore, 1889. Vol. 
I is entitled "Development of the Township, Hun- 
dred, and Shire. ' ' 

Parker, Joel. The origin, organization, and influence 
of the towns of New England. Massachusetts His- 
torical Society, Proceedings, (1866-1867) pp. 14-65. 

Peters, T. McLure. A picture of town government in 
Massachusetts Bay Colony at the middle of the 
seventeenth century as illustrated by the town of 
Boston. Boston. 

2. Massachusetts: 

Adams, Charles Francis. History of Braintree, Mas- 
sachusetts (1639-1708), the North Precinct of Brain- 


tree {1708-1792), and the town of Quincy {1792- 
1889). Cambridge, 1891. 

Allen, Myron Oliver. The history of Wenham. civil 
and ecclesiastical, from its settlement in 1639 to 1860. 
Boston, 1860. 

Butler, Caleb. History of the town of Groton. Bos- 
ton, 1848. 

Chase, George Fingate. The history of Haverhill, 
Massachusetts, 1646-1860. Haverhill, 1861. 

Copeland, Alfred Minott, A history of the town of 
Murray field . . . , 1760-1863. Springfield, Mass., 

Corey, Deloraine Pendre. The history of Maiden, 
Massachusetts, 1633-1785. Maiden, 1899. 

Currier, John J. History of Newbury, Massachusetts, 
1635-1902. Boston, 1902. 

Dagget, John. A sketch of the history of Attleoorough. 
Boston, 1894. 

Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society. His- 
tory of the town of Dorchester, Massachusetts. Bos- 
ton, 1839. 

Ellis, Charles M. The history of Roxbury. Boston, 

Felt, Joseph B. Annals of Salem. 2nd Ed. 3 Vols. 
Salem, 1845. 

Frothingham, Richard. History of Charlestawn, Mas- 
sachusetts. Boston, 1845-49. 

Green, M. A. Springfield, 1636-1886. Springfield, 

Heywood, William Swetzer. History of Westminster, 
Massachusetts, 1728-1893. Lowell, Mass., 1893. 

Hurd, D. Hamilton. History of Worcester County, 
Massachusetts. 2 Vols. Philadelphia, 1889. 

Judd, S. History of Hadley. . . . Springfield, 1903. 

Lincoln, William. History of Worcester, Massachu- 
setts, to 1836. Worcester, 1837. 

Mann, H. Historical annals of Dedham,. Dedham, 

Marvin, Abijah Perkins. History of the town of Win- 
chendon, Massachusetts, 1735-1868. Winchendon, 

Nash, G. Historical sketch of the town of Weymouth, 


1622-1884. Weymouth Historical Society, Publica- 
tions, No. 2. Weymouth, 1885. 

Paige, L. R. History of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 
1630-1877. Boston, 1877. 

Sheldon, George. A history of Deerfield, Massachu- 
setts. 2 Vols. Deerfield, 1895-96. 

Smith, J. E. A., ed. The history of Pitts field, Massa- 
chusetts, 1734-1876. 2 Vols. Boston, 1869-76. 

Stearns, Ezra Scollay. History of Ashburnham, Mas- 
sachusetts, 1734-1886. Ashburnham, Mass., 1887. 

Taylor, Charles J. History of Great Barrington, Mas- 
sachusetts. Great Barrington, 1882. 

Temple, J. E., and Sheldon, George. History of the 
town of Northfield. Albany, N. Y., 1875. 

Torrey, Rufus G. History of the town of Fitchburg. 
Fitchburg, 1865. 

Waters, Thomas Franklin. Ipswich in the Massachu- 
setts Bay Colony. 2 Pts. Ipswich, 1905. Part 2 
is on "Houses and Lands": chapter 5 on "Develop- 
ment of our town government," including common 
land and chapter 6 on " Common lands and common- 

Wells, Daniel White, and Wells, Reuben Field. A 
history of Hatfield, Massachusetts, 1660-1910. 
Springfield, 1910. 

Winsor, Justin, ed. The memorial history of Boston 
... 4 Vols. Boston, 1881. 

Maine : 

Bourne, Edward E. The history of Wells and Kenne- 
bunk. Portland, 1875. Chapter 39 on "Proprie- 
tary history of Wells." 

Dole, Samuel Thomas. Windham in the past. Au- 
burn, Me., 1916. Chapters I, VI, IV on proprietors. 

Hanson, John Wesley. History of Gardiner, Pittston, 
and West Gardiner, 1602-1852. Gardiner, Me. 1852. 

Johnston, John. A history of the town of Bristol and 
Bremen in the State of Maine. Albany, 1873. 
Chapters 35 and 36 on land titles in Bristol and 

Lapham, William Berry, comp. History of Bethel, 


formerly Sudbury Canada . . . 1768-1890. Au- 
gusta, 1891. 

McLellan, Hugh Davis. History of Gorham, Maine. 
Compiled and edited by Katherine B. Lewis. Port- 
land, 1903. 

Miller, Samuel L. History of Waldoboro, Maine. 
Wiscasset, 1910. 

North, James W. The history of Augusta, . . . with 
notices of the Plymouth Company . . . Augusta, 
1870. Chapters 3-4-5-9, passim, on the Plymouth 

Street, George Edward. Mount Desert: a history. 
Edited by Samuel Atkins Eliot. Boston and N. Y., 

Sawtell. Sir Francis Bernard and his grant of Mount 
Desert Island. Boston, 1922. 

Wheeler, George Augustus, and Wheeler, Henry War- 
ren. History of Brunswick, Topsham, and Harp- 
well, Maine. Boston, 1878. Important for the ac- 
tivities of the Pejepscot Proprietors. 

Williamson, Joseph. History of the city of Belfast 
in the State of Maine, 1770-1900. 2 Vols. Port- 
land, 1877, 1913. Vol. I, chapters 3-6-7 on proprie- 

Willis, William. The history of Portland, 1632-1864. 
Portland, 1865. 

4. New Hampshire : 

Carter, Nathan F., and Fowler, T. L. History of 
Pembroke, N. H., 1730-1895. 2 Vols, in one. Con- 
cord, 1895. Chapters 3-4-6-7 on proprietors; chap- 
ter 5 on the Bow controversy. 

Chandler, Charles Henry, comp. The history of New 
Ipswich, N. H., 1735-1914. Fitchburg, Mass., 1914. 
Chapters 2 and 3 on proprietors. 

Cogswell, Leander Winslow. History of the town of 
Henniker . . . 1735-1880. Concord, 1880. 

Cutter, Daniel Bateman. History of the town of Jef- 
frey, N. H., 1749-1880. Concord, 1881. Extracts 
from the Proprietors' Records, pp. 17-31. 

Donovan, Dennis, and Woodward, Jacob A. The his- 


tory of the town of Lyndeborough, New Hampshire, 
1735-1905. Lyndeborough, 1906. 

Dow, Joseph, ed. History of the town of Hampton, 
New Hampshire, 1638-1892. 2 Vols. Salem, 1893. 
Numerous extracts from the Commoners' Records. 

Griffin, S. G. A history of the town of Keene, 1732- 
1874. Addition for 1874-1904 by F. H. Whitcomb. 
Keene, 1904. Numerous extracts from the Proprie- 
tors' Records. 

Harriman, Walter. The history of Warner, New 
Hampshire, 1735-1879. Concord, 1879. 

Hayward, Sylvius. History of the town of Gilsum, 
New Hampshire, 1752-1879. Manchester, 1881. 
Chapters 4 and 30 on proprietors; chapter 6 on 
Vermont troubles. 

Hill, John Boynton. History of the town of Mason, 
New Hampshire, 1749-1858. Boston, 1858. Chap- 
ter 1 on John Mason ; chapter 2 on proprietors. 

Lord, Charles C. Life and times in Hopkinton, New 
Hampshire. Concord, 1890. 

McDuffee, Franklin. History of the town of Roches- 
ter, New Hampshire, 1722-1890. 2 Vols. Man- 
chester, 1892. Chapter 4 on proprietors, 1722-1785. 

Norton, John Foote. The history of Fitzwilliam, New 
Hampshire, 1752-1887. N. Y., 1888. Chapters 4 
and 5 on grants of lands and proprietors. 

Saunderson, Henry Hamilton. History of Charles- 
town, New Hampshire, the Old No. 4. Claremont, 
N. H., 1876. 

Secomb, Daniel Franklin. History of the town of Am- 
herst, New Hampshire, 1728-1882. Concord, 1883. 

Smith, Albert. History of the town of Peterborough 
. . . New Hampshire. Boston, 1876. Appendix, 
The records of the original proprietors. 

Stearns, Ezra Scollay. History of the town of Bindge, 
New Hampshire, 1736-1874. Boston, 1875. 

Vermont : 

Caverly, A. M. History of the town of Pittsford, Ver- 
mont. Rutland, 1872. Chapter 2 on proprietors 
with records. 

Hayes, Lyman Simpson. History of the town of Rock- 


ingham, Vermont, 1753-1907. Bellows Falls, 1907. 
Proprietors' Records for 1753-1764, all that is found. 

Tucker, William Howard. History of Hartford, Ver- 
mont, 1761-1889. Burlington, 1889. Chapters 1- 
3-4 on proprietors, with extracts from the Proprie- 
tors' Records. 

Wells, Frederic P. History of Newbury, Vermont. 
St. Johnsbury, 1902. Chapters 4 and 5 touch upon 

6. Rhode Island: 

Bicknell, Thomas Williams. A history of Barrington, 

Rhode Island. Providence, 1898. 
Bicknell, Thomas Williams. Sowam. New Haven, 

Greene, Daniel Howland. History of the town of 

East Greenwich and adjacent territory, 1677-1877. 

Providence, 1877. Extracts from the Proprietors' 

Records for 1700-1794. 
Staples, William R. Annals of the town of Provi- 
dence. Providence, 1843. 
Steere, Thomas. History of the town of Smithfield, 

1730/31-1871. Providence, 1881. 

7. Connecticut: 

Allen, Francis Olcott. The history of Enfield, Con- 
necticut. 3 Vols. Lancaster, Pa., 1900. Vol. I is 
practically the collection of documentary materials 
on land grants, town meetings, commoners ' book, etc. 

Anderson, Joseph, editor. The town and city of Wa- 
terbury, Connecticut. 3 Vols. New Haven, 1896. 

Bronson, Henry. The history of Waterbury, Connec- 
ticut. Waterbury, 1858. 

Caulkins, Frances M. History of New London, from 
the first survey of the coast in 1612. New London, 

Caulkins, Frances M. History of Norwich, from its 
possession by the Indians till 1866. Hartford, 1866. 

Cothren, William. History of Ancient Woodbury, 
Connecticut, 1659-1854. 3 Vols. Waterbury, 1854. 

Crissey, Theron Wilmot. History of Norfolk, Con- 
necticut, 1744-1900. Everett, Mass., 1900. 


Hibbard, A. G. History of the town of Goshen, Con- 
necticut . . . Hartford, 1897. 

Larned, Ellen D. History of Windham County, Con- 
necticut. 2 Vols. Worcester, 1874. 

Lawson, Harvey M., compiler. The history of Union, 
Connecticut. New Haven, 1893. 

Love, William DeLoss. The colonial history of Hart- 
ford, gathered from the original records. Hartford, 
1914. Chapter VIII on ' ' Proprietors of Hartford. ' ' 

Orcutt, Samuel. History of the town of New Milford 
and Bridgewater, Connecticut, 1703-1882. Hart- 
ford, 1882. 

Phelps, N. A. History of Simsbury, Cranby, and Can- 
ton, 1642-1845. Hartford, 1845. 

Sedgwick, Charles F. General history of the town of 
Sharon, . . . Connecticut. 3rd ed. Amenia, N. 
Y., 1898. 

Steiner, Bernard C. History of the plantation of 
Menunkoyuck and of the original town of Guilford, 
Connecticut, comprising the present towns of Guil- 
ford and Madison. Baltimore, 1897. 

Stiles, Henry Reed. History and genealogies of An- 
cient Windsor, 1635-1891. 2 Vols. Hartford, 1891- 

Stiles, Henry Reed. The history of ancient Wethers- 
field, Connecticut. N. Y., 1904. 

Trumbull, James Hammond. Memorial history of 
Hartford County, Connecticut, 1633-1884. 2 Vols. 
Boston, 1886. 


Adams, Charles Francis. Three episodes of Massachusetts 

history. 2 Vols. Boston, 1892. 
Adams, James Truslow. The founding of New England. 

Boston, 1921. The Revolutionary New England. 

Boston, 1924. 
Andrews, Charles M. The old English Manor: a study in 

English economic history. Johns Hopkins University, 

Studies in History and Political Science, Extra Volume 

XII. Baltimore,' 1892. 


Atwater, Edward E. History of the colony of New Haven 
to its absorption into Connecticut. Meriden, Conn, 

Barry, John S. History of Massachusetts, 1492-1820. 3 
Vols. Boston, 1855-57. 

Belknap, Jeremy. The history of New Hampshire. 3 Vols. 
2nd Ed. Boston, 1791-2. 

Bolton, Charles Knowles. Scotch Irish pioneers in Ulster 
and America. Boston, 1910. 

Bond, Beverly Waugh. Quit rent system in the American 
colonies. Introduction by C. M. Andrews. Yale His- 
torical Publications, Miscellaneous, Vol. VI. New 
Haven, 1919. 

Burrage, Henry Sweetzer. The beginnings of colonial 
Maine, 1602-1658. Portland, 1914. 

Cheyney, Edward. The manor of East Greenwich, in the 
County of Kent. The American Historical Review 
(Oct. 1905) XI: 29-35. 

Cheyney, Edward. Social changes in England in the six- 
teenth century. Part I : Rural changes. University 
of Pennsylvania, Publication in Philosophy, Literature, 
and Archaeology, IV, No. 2. Boston, 1895. 

Chickering, Jesse. A statistical view of the population of 
Massachusetts from 1766 to 1840. Boston, 1846. 

Davis, Andrew McFarland. Corporations in the days of 
the colony. (Publication of the Colonial Society of 
Massachusetts, Vol. I.) Cambridge, 1894. 

Davis, Andrew McFarland. Currency and banking in the 
province of Massachusetts Bay. American Economic 
Association, Publications, Ser. 3, Vol. I, No. 4 and Vol. 
II, No. 2. N. Y., 1900, 1901. 

Dickerson, O. M. American colonial government : a study 
of the British Board of Trade, in its relation to the 
American Colonies, political, industrial, administra- 
tive. Cleveland, Ohio, 1912. 

Douglas, Charles H. J. The financial history of Massachu- 
setts, from the organization of the Massachusetts Bay 
Company to the American Revolution. Columbia 
University, Studies in History, Economics, and Public 
Law, Vol. I, No. 4. N. Y., 1893. 

Dow, George Francis. Fort Western on the Kennebec. 
Augusta, Me., 1922. 


Doyle, J. A. English Colonies in America. Vols. II-III, 
"The Puritan Colonies." N. Y., 1889. 

Faust, Albert Bernhardt. The German element in the 
United States. 2 Vols. Boston and N. Y., 1909. 

Field, Edward, ed. State of Rhode Island and Providence 
Plantation at the end of the century: a history. 3 
Vols, Boston, 1902. Vol. Ill, Chapter 1, The politi- 
cal development of the towns — many plans for land 

Ford, Henry Jones. The Scotch Irish in America. Prince- 
ton, N. J., 1915. 

Foster, William E. Stephen Hopkins, a Rhode Island 
statesman. Rhode Island Historical Tracts (Rider 
Tracts), No. 19, in 2 parts. Providence, 1884. 

Gipson, Lawrence Henry. Jared Ingersoll: a study of 
American loyalism in relation, to British colonial gov- 
ernment. New Haven, 1920. Chapter XI, "Inger- 
soll and the Susquehanna disputes, ' ' 

Gookin, F. W. Daniel Gookin, 1612-1687. Chicago, 1912. 

Goold, William. Fort Hallifox: its projectors, Guilders, 
and garrison. Maine Historical Society, Collections. 
1st Series, Vol. VIII (1881) : 197-289. (Activities of 
the Plymouth Company, with extracts from the rec- 

Hall, Benjamin H. History of Eastern Vermont, from its 
earliest settlement to the close of the eighteenth cent- 
ury. New York, 1858. Particularly good on the New 
York-New Hampshire controversy. 

Hall, Hiland. The history of Vermont, from its discovery 
to its admission into the Union. Albany, 1868. Also 
good on the New York-New Hampshire controversy. 

Hanna, Charles A. The Scotch-Irish or the Scot in North 
Briton, North Ireland, and North America. 2 Vols. 
N. Y., 1902. 

Haynes, George H. Representation and suffrage in Massa- 
chusetts, 1620-1691. Johns Hopkins University, 
Studies in History and Political Science, Vol. XII, 
Nos. 8-9. Baltimore, 1894. 

Hazeltine, H. D. Appeals from Colonial Courts to the 
King in Council, with especial reference to Rhode Is- 
land. American Historical Association, Annual Re- 
port, 1894, pp. 299-350. 


Historical Societies. The collections, publications, pro- 
ceedings, transactions, and bulletins of different his- 
torical societies in New England, both State and town, 
contain much valuable information, though scattered. 
(A. P. C. Griffin, Bibliography of American Historical 
Societies, American Historical Association, Annual Re- 
port, 1905, II, Washington, 1907, and G. G. Griffin, 
Writings on American History.) 

Hoadley, Charles Jeremy. The Warwick Patent. Acorn 
Club, Publication, No. 7. Hartford, 1902. 

Hutchinson, Thomas. History of the colony and Province 
of Massachusetts Bay. 3 Vols. London, 1765-68- 

Jones, Augustine. The life and work of Thomas Dudley. 
Boston, 1899. 

Johnston, Alexander. The genesis of a New England State 
{Connecticut). Johns Hopkins University, Studies in 
History and Political Science. Vol. I, No. 11. Balti- 
more, 1883. 

Levermore, Charles H. The Republic of New Haven. 
Johns Hopkins University, Studies in History and Po- 
litical Science, Extra Volume I. Baltimore, 1886. 

McKinley, Albert Edward. The suffrage franchise in the 
thirteen English colonies in America. University of 
Pennsylvania, Publication in History Series, No. 2. 
Philadelphia, 1906. 

Mathews, Lois Kimball. Expansion of New England. 
Boston, 1909. 

Palfrey, John G. History of New England, 1492-1774. 
5 Vols. Boston, 1858-1890. 

Perry, Arthur Latham. Scotch-Irish in New England. 
Boston, 1891. 

Richman, Irving Berdine. Rhode Island: its making and 
its meaning. 1636-1683. 2 Vols. N. Y., 1902. 
Chapter V touches upon the land system and chapter 
XV upon "Territorial Integrity." 

Russel, E. B. The review of American colonial legislation 
by the King in Council. Columbia University, Studies 
in History, Science, and Public Law, LXIV, No. 2. 
N. Y., 1915. 

Schoff, Wilfred H. The German Immigration into colonial 


New England. The Pennsylvania-German, Vol. XII 
(1911), pp. 395-402, 517-522. 

Spencer, Henry Russel. Constitutional conflict in Provin- 
cial Massachusetts. Columbus, 0., 1905. 

Shepherd, William Robert. History of Proprietary gov- 
ernment in Pennsylvania. Columbia University, 
Studies in History, Science, and Public Law, VI. N. 
Y., 1896. 

Thompson, Garrett W. The Germans in Maine. The 
Pennsylvania-German, XI : 595-601, 684-690, 724-734 ; 
The Pennsylvania-Germanania, new series, I: 36-44; 
106-112, 161-169. 1911-1912. 

Toppan, Robert N. The failure to establish an hereditary 
political aristocracy in the colonies. Publication of 
the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. Vol. III. 
Boston, 1900. 

Trumbull, Benjamin. Complete history of Connecticut, 
from 1630 to 1764. 2 Vols. New Haven, 1818. 

Turner, Frederick Jackson. The first official frontier of 
the Massachusetts Bay. Publication of the Colonial 
Society of Massachusetts, Transactions, XVII. Bos- 
ton, 1915. This and other essays are bound together 
in "The Frontier in American History/' N. Y., 1920. 

Weeden, William B. Economic and social history of New 
England, 1620-1789. 2 Vols. Boston, 1890. 

Williamson, William Durkee. The history of the State of 
Maine, from its first discovery, 1602, to the separation, 
1820. 2 Vols. 2nd Ed. Hallowell, 1839. 

Wood, George Arthur. William Shirley, Governor of Mas- 
sachusetts, 1741-1756, a history. Vol. I. N. Y., 1920. 

Young, Alexander. Chronicles of the first planters of the 
Colony of Massachusetts Bay, from 1623 to 1636. 
Boston, 1846. 


Absentee proprietors, 138-139; 
controversy between non-pro- 
prietors and, 139-141 ; increase 
in the eighteenth century of, 

Acworth, N. H., 195. 

Adams, Mass. (East Housac), 

Adison, Me., 197. 

Alstead, N. H. (Newton Can- 
ada), 64 note 49, 195. 

Amherst, Mass., 94, 97, 99, 100. 

Amherst, N. H., 191. 

Andros, Sir Edmund, commission 
of, 118-119; attack on free 
tenure of land by, 119-124; 
opposition of proprietors to, 
119-123; and John Lynde, 
123; overthrow of, 123-124. 

Apthorp, Charles, land specula- 
tor, 215. 

Arlington, Vt., 95. 

Ashburnham, Mass. (Dorchester 
Canada), 97, 100, 102, 192, 
206-207, 211, 217, 218. 

Ashfield, Mass. (Weymouth 
Canada), 94, 193. 

Ashuelot River townships, 196. 

Atherton Company, 268 note 112. 

Athol, Mass., 83. 

Atkinson, Theodore, 166, 239. 

Auction townships, 197-200. 

Bedford, N. H., 191. 
Bennington, Vt., 98. 

Bernard, Sir Francis, 10, 299 
note 12. 

Berwick, Mass., 153-154, 223- 

Bethel, Me. (Sudbury Canada), 

Billerica, Mass., controversy be- 
tween proprietors and non- 
proprietors in, 132-133. 

Bingham Purchase, 296 note 7. 

Boston, Mass., town and distri- 
bution of land in, 20-21, 51; 
exclusiveness of proprietors in, 

Boston auction townships, 196. 

Boston towns, 196. 

Boundary controversies, and spec- 
ulation, 184-185 ; Massachu- 
setts-New Hampshire, 194- 
195, 200 ; New Hampshire-New 
York, 200-201, 203. 

Bow Controversy, 155, 165-174. 

Bradford, N. H., 195. 

Braintree, Mass., 37, 52; non- 
proprietors' revolt against ab- 
sentee proprietors, 139. 

Brown claims, 278-279. 

Bubbles of 1719-1720, 182-183. 

Buxton, Me. (Narragansett No. 
1), 90, 97, 99, 102, 191, 228; 
pecuniary inducement for set- 
tlement in, 92-94; trespasses 
in, 149-150. 




Cambridge, Mass., 16, 19, 165; 
distribution of land in, 52; 
first proprietors' meeting in, 
57; exclusiveness of proprie- 
tors in, 71; Randolph and pro- 
prietors of, 120-121. 

Charlemont, Mass., 196. 

Charlestown, Mass., 152. 

Charlestown, N. H., 102, 195. 

Chatham, Mass., 160. 

Chester, Mass., 199. 

Chesterfield, N. H., 195. 

Clark and Lake Claims, 231-232. 

Cohasset, Mass., 72. 

Colden, Cadwalder, 203; and 
New York grants in Vermont, 
203-204; on speculation, 113- 

Coleman, John, and land bank, 

Colerain, Mass., 196. 

College lands, 208 note 56. 

Common and undivided lands, 

Common fields, in Salem, 20; 
system of, 110-114. 

Commonage, right of, 110-111. 

Concord, Mass., 95-96, 298. 

Concord, N. H., (Penny cook or 
Penocook), 166ff. 

Connecticut Colony, 8, 37, 39, 52 ; 
the Fundamental Order of, 18, 
31; Indian land title in, 26 
note 21, 28-29; Indian pro- 
tectorate and reservations in, 
39-42; laws on proprietors' 
power, 65 notes 51 and 52, 75, 
78 ; organization of proprie- 
tors in, 57-59, 63, 76 note 88; 
laws on proprietors' organi- 
zation in, 157-159; "Western 
Lands" of, 197-199. 

Connecticut Gore Land Company, 

Connecticut Land Company, 296. 

Connecticut River townships, 

Cornwall, N. H., 218 note 92. 

Cottagers, 134-135 ; controversy 
between proprietors and, 135- 
138; Massachusetts law on, 

Council for New England, 7; 
land grants under, 230-231. 

Crellius, Joseph, and Kennebec 
Purchase Proprietors, 265-267. 

Cummington, Mass., 199. 

Currency problem in New Eng- 
land, 177-178. 

Dedham, Mass., founding of, 32- 
33, 152; distribution of land 
in, 51. 

Deerfield, Mass., 37; first pro- 
prietors' organization in, 57; 
absentee proprietors of, 140- 
141; common field in, 113 
note 102. 

Delaware Company, 286. 

Delinquent proprietors, 79, 225; 
Massachusetts laws on, 226- 
227; land of, forfeited or 
sold, 227-229. 

Division of land, 103-104; pro- 
prietors' exclusive right to, 
74-76; principle of, 104-107; 
method of, 107-109; voting 
on, 109; result of, 109. 

Dorchester, Mass., 16, 19, 69 
note 60 ; proprietors ' exclusive- 
ness in, 71; trespasses in, 149. 

Drowne claims, 231, 278-279. 

Dimmer, Jeremiah, 182-183. 



Dunberton, N. H., (Gorham, Can- 
ada), 192. 

Duxbury, Mass., 52, 160; con- 
troversy between proprietors 
and non-proprietors in, 132. 

Eastern Claims, controversy over, 

Eatham, Mass., 165. 
Edgecombe Claim, 231. 
Egremont, Mass., 70 note 65. 
Encroachments, 147-148 ; laws 

regulating penalty for, 148- 

149 ; proprietors ' actions 

against, 149-151. 
Enfield, Conn., 37, 69 note 60; 

distribution of land in, 52, 

107 note 85. 

Gorham, Me., 191. 

Gouldsborough, Me., 196. 

Great Barrington, Mass., (Upper 
Housatonic), 64 note 53, 83, 
86, 98, 196; mills in, 89. 

Great Proprietors, 66 note 55, 
214; revival of, 230-253; 
granting townships and lands 
by, 253-258 ; and immigration, 
258-268 ; and frontier defense, 
269-271; and controversies 
over Eastern lands, 272-282. 

Groton, Mass., 52, 57 ; proprie- 
tary controversy in, 151-152. 

Guilford, Conn., 68 note 59, 105 
note 80. 

Guilford, Vt. (Gallop's Canada), 

Falmouth, Me., proprietary con- 
troversy in, 146-147. 

Flagg, Gershom, and Kennebec 
Purchase Proprietors, 267-268, 

Fitch, Major James, land jobber, 

Fitzwilliam, N. H., 112-113. 

Fort Brunswick, 271. 

Fort George, 271. 

Fort Western, 269-270. 

Framingham, Mass., 152-153. 

French immigration, 268 note 

Frontier defense, proprietors and, 
101-102, 269-271. 

General Court, and land grants, 
9-12, 30-38, 190-204; and 
settlement of controversies, 

Goffstown, N. H., 191, 210, 217, 

Hadham, Conn., 90. 

Hadley, Mass., 35-36, 73 note 78, 
106 note 81. 

Hamilton Patent, 232 note 7. 

Hampton, Mass., 34. 

Hancock, Me., 196. 

Harrington, Me., 197. 

Hartford, Conn., 16, 68 note 59; 
controversy in, 133. 

Hartford, Vt., 95. 

Hartwood, Mass., 86, 90, 96, 98, 
100 note 65. 

Harvard College Claims, 231. 

Haverhill, Mass., 56, 106 note 
81, 160, 161, 164; controversy 
between proprietors and non- 
proprietors in, 126-129, 298. 

Henniker, N. H., 195. 

Hill, John, speculator, 212, 225. 

Highways, proprietors and build- 
ing of, 86-88. 

Hillsborough, N. H., 195. 

Hingham, Mass., 52. 



Hinsdale, Mass., 199. 

Hobby Claims, 236. 

Hopkinton, N. H., 76 note 91, 

Housatonic No. 1, 98. 
Housatonie townships, 196. 

Indian proprietors, 38-44, 77 

note 92. 
Indian troubles, and speculation, 

183-184; and retarding of 

settlement, 223-224. 
Indians, land title of, 6, 38; 

purchase of land from, 22, 27- 

Ipswich, Mass., founding of, 34, 

52, 105 note 80, 164; "new" 
and "old" comers in, 70. 

Keene, N. H., 86, 87 note 7, 96, 
100, 107 note 85, 108 note 86, 

Kellog, Ezekiel, land jobber, 215. 

Kennebec Purchase Proprietors 
(Plymouth Company), 65 note 

53, 214, 232; history of, 241- 
244 ; organization of, 242-243 ; 
activities of, 243-244; and im- 
migration, 264-268 ; Fort 
Western built by, 269-270; 
controversy with Pejepscot 
Proprietors, 272-276; and var- 
ious eastern claims, 276-277; 
and Pemaquid Proprietors, 

Knox-Durer speculation, 296 
note 1. 

Lancaster, Mass., 56-57; con- 
troversy over absentee pro- 
prietors of, 140, 163. 

Land Bank, in England, 178 note 

3; in Massachusetts, 178-181; 
in Connecticut, 178 note 1 5, 

Land grants, condition of, 207- 
208, 219-229; speculative, 189- 
204; general survey of, 204- 

Land speculation, 209-229; back- 
ground of, 175-188; signifi- 
cance of, 294-296. 

Land system, in New England 
Colonies, 5-13; some defects 
in, 115-118. 

Land title, 5-13; squatter right 
to, 15-22; purchased from In- 
dians, 22-29; granted by gen- 
eral court, 30-38; Indian, 38- 

Law lots, 208. 

Lebanon, N. H., 86. 

Lechmere, Thomas, 91, 259-261. 

Leicester, Mass., proprietors of, 
156 note 100. 

Lenox, Mass., 199. 

Lempster, N. H., 195. 

Lincolnshire Company Proprie- 
tors, 214; history of, 248-250; 
revival and organization of, 
248-249; Waldo and, 249-250; 
granting of land by, 257-258; 
and immigration, 261-264; and 
frontier defense, 271. 

Lotteries, in England, 185-186; 
in Massachusetts, 186; in Con- 
necticut, 187; and speculation, 

Lynde, John, and Andros, 123. 

Lyndeborough, N. H. (Salem 
Canada), 99, 192. 

Lynn, Mass., 161. 

Madison, Conn., 112 note 99. 



Maine townships, 196. 

Maiden, Mass., 34, 161; cot- 
tagers in, 135-136. 

Manchester, Mass., 68 note 59, 

Mason, Capt. John, 233-234. 

Mason, John Tufton, 236-238. 

Masonian Proprietors, 99, 173- 
174, 205, 208, 209; history of, 
233-241; and Allen claims, 
235-236 ; organization of, 238- 
240; granting of townships by, 
240-241, 253-256. 

Massachusetts Colony, 7-8, 16, 
18, 109; laws against purchase 
of land from Indians, 27-28; 
General Court and land grant 
in, 30-31; Indian reservations 
in, 40-41; Indian proprietors 
in, 42-44 ; laws on proprietors ' 
organization in, 55-56; laws 
on proprietors' meetings in, 
63 ; proprietors ' control of 
land in, 74-75; laws on pro- 
prietary taxation in, 77-78; 
laws on proprietors ' corporate 
powers, 79-80; laws on pro- 
prietors ' records, 81 ; Bow con- 
troversy and, 171, 172; laws 
in, 65 note 51, 68, 111 note 95. 

Merril, John, and Bow controv- 
ersy, 169-171, 174. 

Merrimac-Connectieut townships, 

Military grants, 184, 201, 202. 

Mills, building of, and proprie- 
tors, 88-92. 

' * Mississippi Scheme," in 
France, 182. 

Murrayfield, Mass., 96, 199, 207, 

Muscongus Proprietors (see Lin- 

colnshire Company Proprie- 

Nahant Neck proprietors, and 
Eandolph, 121-122. 

Nantucket, 113 note 102. 

Narragansett townships, 190- 

New Boston, N. H. (Cambridge 
Canada), 193, 222 note 106. 

New England, land system in, 

New Hampshire Colony, 9, 53, 
63; laws on proprietors' 
power over land, 75; law suits 
in, 83; New Hampshire-Mas- 
sachusetts boundary disputes, 
99 ; ' ' New Hampshire Grants, ' ' 
200-202, 208. 

* * New Hampshire Grants, ' ' 200- 
202, 208. 

New Haven, Conn., 16, 52. 

New London, Conn., 58, 64 note 
59; controversy between pro- 
prietors and non-proprietors 
in, 133. 

New Marblehead, 100. 

New Marlborough, Mass., 196, 
70 note 65. 

New Milford, Conn., 90, 108 note 

New Eoxbury, N. H., 90-91. 

New York grants in Vermont, 

Newbury, Mass., 52, 160; con- 
troversy between proprietors 
and non-proprietors in, 129- 

Newport, E. I., origin of, 24. 

Norfolk, Conn., 85 note 1, 87 
note 7, 107 note 85. 

Northampton, Mass., 106 note 



82, 160, 161; controversy be- 
tween proprietors and, 142- 

Ohio Company, 296. 

Palmer, John, and "The State 
of New England," 122. 

Patent fees, in New York, 203 
note 42. 

Pejepscot Proprietors, origin of, 
244-245; revival and organi- 
zation of, 245-246; activities 
of, 246-247; granting of land 
by, 256-257; and immigration, 
259-261; building of Forte 
Brunswick and George, 271; 
controversy with Kennebec 
Purchase Proprietors, 272-276 ; 
and Harvard College Claims, 

Pemaquid Proprietors, 214; ori- 
gin of, 251 ; revival and or- 
ganization of, 251-252 ; activ- 
ities of, 252-253 ; controversy 
over eastern claims, 277-281. 

Peru, Mass., 197. 

Petersborough, N. H. (Band's 
Canada), 97, 101-102, 193, 210. 

Phelps-Gorham Purchase, 296. 

Pittsfield, Mass., 196. 

Plantation covenant, in Hadley, 

Plymouth, Mass., 51; contro- 
versy between proprietors and, 

Plymouth Colony, 78, 109; In- 
dian land title in, 25-26, 28; 
laws on proprietors' organiza- 
tion in, 55. 

Portsmouth, R. I., origin of, 23- 

Proprietors, Gireat. (See Great 

Proprietors, town, definition of, 
1-5; place in New England 
land system, 5-13 ; different 
origin of, 15-44; in the 
seventeenth century, 44—49 ; 
organization of, 50-85; meet- 
ings of, 60-64; officers, 64-67; 
membership, 67-73; rights and 
privileges of, 12-13, 73-80; 
records of, 80-84; activities of, 
85-114; controversies of, 115- 
174, 296-299; and speculation, 
189-229; supreme court de- 
cisions on, 62 note 44, 82 note 
105, 83 notes 106-107-108- 
109; significance of, 288-299. 

Providence, R. I., origin of, 22- 
23 ; controversy between pro- 
prietors and non-proprietors 

Quit rents, 115-117; Randolph 
and, 117; Andros and, 117, 
119; in New Hampshire, 124. 

Randolph, Edward, and quit 
rents, 117; 120-121; and Cam- 
bridge proprietors, 120-121 ; 
and Nahant Neck proprietors, 

Rehoboth Purchases, 26 note 19. 

Richmond, Mass., 199. 

Richmond, N. H. (Sylvester 
Canada), 192. 

Rindge, N. H. (Rowley Canada), 
86, 193. 

River Towns of Connecticut, 8, 

Rhode Island Colony, 8; IndiaD 
land title in, 22-25, 29, 31, 32; 



laws on proprietors' organiza- 
tion in, 59-60, 63; laws on 
proprietors ' power over land 
in, 75. 

Bochester, Mass., 66 note 54. 

Eowe, Mass., 199. 

Rowley, Mass., 52. 

Rutland, Mass., 165. 

Roxbury, Mass., 16, 52, 161. 

Salem, Mass., beginning of, 16, 
20; town and distribution of 
land in, 51; cottagers in, 136- 
138; trespasses in, 150, 160. 

Salisbury, N. H. (Newbury 
Canada), 193. 

Sandisfield, Mass. (Housatonic 
No. 3), 64 note 50, 87 note 
8, 196. 

Savoy, Mass., 85 note 1, 199. 

Saybrook, Conn., 73, 87 note 6, 
101 note 66. 

Scioto Purchase, 296. 

Scotch-Irish immigration, 257- 

Sheffield, Mass., 196. 

Simsbury, Conn., controversy be- 
tween proprietors and, 145- 

" South Sea Bubble," 182. 

So warn, 26, 72. 

Speculation, background of, in 
New England, 175-188. 

Speculative land grants, 190-204 ; 
general survey of, 204-209; 
characteristics of, 209-219. 

Springfield, Mass., 34; "In- 
ward'' and "Outward" com- 
mons in, 72-73; inhabitants 
of, vs. Miller, 83, 108. 

Squatters, 15-22. 

Sterling Claims, 231. 

Stiles, Ezra, on land speculation, 

Stockbridge, Mass., Indian pro- 
prietors of, 42-43. 

Suffield, Mass., 34-35; contro- 
versy between proprietors and, 

Sullivan, Me., 196. 

Susquehanna Company, 283-287; 
and Delaware Company, 286. 

Sutton, Mass., 164. 

Swanzy, N. H., 196. 

Tappan Claims, 278-279. 

Taunton Purchases, 26 note 18. 

Temple, William, speculator, 212. 

Temple, Robert, speculator, 259- 

Templeton, N. H., 191. 

Tisbury, Mass., 154. 

Town, New England, 4-5, 12; 
distribution of land and, 12, 
51-53 ; distinction between 
proprietors and, 53-54, 289; 
controversy between proprie- 
tors and, 141-147; on origin 
of, 291-293. 

Trespasses (See encroachments). 

Tynn, Mass., 52. 

Tyringham, Mass. (Housatonic 
No. 1), 64 note 50, 87 note 
6, 100 note 65, 196. 

Union, Conn., 89, 101 note 66, 

Vassal, Florentius, and Kenne- 
bec Purchase Proprietors, 267- 

Vaughan Claims, 278-279. 



Waldo, Samuel, 249-250, 261- 

Waldo Patentees (see Lincoln- 
shire Company Proprietors). 

Walpole, N. H., 195. 

Warner, N. H., 95, 195; delin- 
quency in, 228-229. 

Warwick, Mass. (Roxbury Can- 
ada), 95, 97, 100, 192. 

Warwick, R. I., 24. 

Washington, N. H., 195. 

Water rights, 89. 

Waterbury, Conn., ' ' Grand ' ' and 
' ' Bachelor ' ' proprietors in, 

Watertown, Mass., 16, 19, 69 
note 60; town and distribution 
of land in, 51; first proprie- 
tors' meeting in, 56; exclusive- 
ness of proprietors in, 72; 
trespasses in, 149. 

Weare, N. H. (Beverley Canada), 

Wentworth, Gov. Benning, 166- 

Wentworth, John, 166, 239. 

Westbrook, Thomas, speculator, 
166, 247, 257-258. 

Western claims, interest in, 282- 

283; Connecticut and, 283- 

"Western Lands" of Connecti- 
cut, 197. 
Westfield-Suffield townships, 196. 
Westmoreland, N. H., 195. 
Westminster, Mass. (Narragan- 

sett No. 2), 94-95, 97, 99, 100; 

absentee proprietors of, 141, 

191, 217. 
Weymouth, Mass., 16; town and 

distribution of land in, 51. 
Winchendon, Mass. (Ipswich 

Canada), 95, 97, 100, 102, 192. 
Winchester, Conn., 218. 
Windsor, Conn., 16; controversy 

in, 133. 
Windsor, Mass., 199. 
Winthrop, John, 91, 259-261. 
Woburn, Mass., controversy in, 

Wolcott, Roger, 182. 
Woodbury, Conn., proprietors ' 

committees in, 67 note 56. 
Worcester, Mass., 150; trespasses 

in, 154. 
Worthington, Mass., 199.